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The John Westell Centenary, Part 1: The early years

by Dougal Henshall 3 Jan 01:00 PST
John Westell in the 1970s © Westell family

From the Bloody Mary, to the 50th Contender Worlds and now the Sydney-Hobart, the casualty list from Covid grows ever longer and for a while, it looked as if the next occasion to fall would be the centenary of the birth of John Westell, one of our iconic, if understated innovators and designers.

The plan had been to prepared an illustrated talk that could be presented at the RYA Dinghy Show and then around the Clubs, with there being no lack of bookings for this, though sadly these have all had to be cancelled.

Plan B was to do the talk using video, though with the changing situation in the Tiers, there was but one opportunity to interview John's daughter Gillian and with the need to stretch out the social distancing the wind noise would come close to spoiling this from the outset. Yet the technical problems should not detract from the narrative, for the Westell story is one that covers many classes and events, and then of course there is the birth of the 5o5.

All this will be covered in detail in the following episodes, which will hopefully be filmed indoors. But it is a story worthy of being told as it is the history of a sailor, a designer, an innovator and engineer - and at the same time, a caring family man.

So here is Part One, Part two will follow shortly.

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