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The John Westell Centenary

by Dougal Henshall 20 Nov 2020 06:00 PST
John Westell crewing for Charles Currey in the 505 on a breezy day out in Solent © Courtesy G. Westell

Whatever your favourite dinghy or boat may be, they all have one thing in common! At some point back in the past, someone sat down and drew the lines for the boat, normally with a particular purpose in mind! It might have been as a commission, or, in the development classes, as a belief that the new boat would be a progressive step forward from an existing design.

However the story behind the creation of one of the best designs ever to take to the water, the 505, has become rather confused and jumbled with the passage of time, with there being some justification for the confusion, as the situation in the dinghy world nearly 70 years ago was one of fundamental change. The Olympics were still 'The Yachting Olympics' and the only concession to the growing ranks of the dinghy sailing world was a singlehander, moreover the concept of 'performance sailing' was only just translating into a new breed of boats heading out onto the water.

One person who would be in the thick of all this would be John Westell, who as a journalist for Yachts & Yachting, as a sought-after crew, and as a dinghy designer would end up leaving an incredible legacy that goes far beyond just that of his most famous design. Yet John's story, like that of the birth of the 505, is one that has never properly been told, but with the Centenary of his birth taking place early in 2021, the plan had been to put the record straight through a number of articles and illustrated talks that would take place around the country.

That of course was before Covid-19, but following the lead of the RYA with the 'virtual' Dinghy Show, the story of John Westell, his life, his boats and many of his other related interests will now be told in a series of linked videos hosted here on YachtsandYachting.com and Sail-World.com.

As I say at the conclusion of the video, "this will be quite a story"...

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