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Boatbuilding training buoyant in Falmouth after 100 years

Published: 1st October 2020

Falmouth Marine School is celebrating an incredible anniversary.

This October, marks 100 years of providing training for the boatbuilding industry, an integral part of the maritime history of Cornwall.

As a site of education, the School can trace its history back to 1825, when it was originally known as the Falmouth Classical and Mathematical School, providing education in Latin, Greek, French and mathematics to the residents of a rapidly growing Falmouth harbour.

On the 1st October, 1920, 96 apprentices from Cox & Co (Falmouth Docks) began their boatbuilding apprenticeships with the College.

Head of Falmouth Marine School Steve Taylor, said everyone at The Cornwall College Group campus was “very proud of our history and have been looking forward to the big celebration this year”.

“We are known as ‘the Career College’, as all of our courses focus on the skills and knowledge required by the industry, thus ensuring that our students are fully employable when they leave us,” he continued.

“With this ethos, it’s not surprising we are still here after a century, training and educating people to be the future leaders of their chosen fields. We work with a multitude of clients on live projects and employers through work experience and industry placements. This provides the students with first class experience in the industry which is proving to lead directly to employment.”

After the Second World War, in the early 1950s, the school became a technical college offering its first full-time boatbuilding course and in 1980 it became Falmouth Marine School, part of The Cornwall College Group.

Falmouth Marine School is recognised as one of the leading educators in the region and beyond for its diverse courses, which include marine engineering, marine science and watersports courses, as well as continuing with its boatbuilding provision.

Located in the heart of the boatbuilding industry at Ponshardon, the boatbuilding courses and apprenticeships equip students with both traditional and modern boatbuilding techniques.

It is the only place where students can gain specialist training with access to dedicated workshops in both traditional and new wood techniques as well as in the latest range of composites.

It is their achievements and stories that showcase the value of the courses to the community and around the world.

Falmouth local Ben Davis secured the position of wing manager for Ben Ainslie’s America Cup team thanks to his expertise in boat technology gained at Falmouth Marine School.

He said his course “provided me with a fantastic stepping stone for my career”.

“The most important thing I learnt is laminating epoxy systems, which is now what I’m using every day as wing manager,” he added.

Live projects are an integral part of the boatbuilding courses, students have built a prototype for a new generation of sailboat, worked on the creation of a replica Viking boat for an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall and built a Viking Prow, for a centre piece at Chelsea garden Show, to name a few.

Charlotte Ray, aged 33, is one of the students that worked on the sailboat prototype for Peter Crockford.

“It’s such valuable experience to work on a boat that will be used at a professional level,” she explained.

“To be part of something using latest techniques on a brand new design that no one else has ever built before is mind blowing, I don’t think any other college offers this level of engagement and development for their students.”

Matt Smitheran, aged 17, worked on the building of a 15ft skiff for a client, something he called “a fantastic experience”.

“On the boatbuilding course we learnt all the various boatbuilding and composite skills, but to put them all together and build a boat is really rewarding,” he explained.

There are many projects planned for our Centenary learners, including a trio of traditional Cornish competitive rowing boats; a new build 15’ Cornish Skiff, the restoration of an 18’ Cornish Flashboat and the completion of a new build Cornish Pilot Gig that sadly did not get completed by last year’s learners because of the Covid-19 lock-down.

One stand out project for the year is the restoration of one of the Falmouth Working boats; strictly speaking a Truro River Oyster Boat, “Bessie” built in 1904. With this repair and restoration, learners will benefit from the experience of seeing this project through from survey, to repairs, refinishing, launching and commissioning.

If you would like to study at Falmouth Marine School please visit or call 01326310310.



Cornwall College, Falmouth Marine School


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