MEMBERS of the Royal Northern and Clyde Yacht Club in Rhu enjoyed a fascinating talk by long-standing member Ian Nicolson about his 74 years in sailing at a recent club night.

Royal Northern & Clyde Yacht Club members were treated to a fascinating and informative talk by long-standing member, Ian Nicolson, at a recent Club Night. At 90 years young, Ian is still a vibrant and active member of the club, racing regularly in the Sonar Class on Tuesday evenings, helping to train young sailors, and cruising and racing his own boat, St Bridget.

He spoke of his rich and varied life as a naval architect, author and sailboat designer– including his work with the renowned Glasgow yacht design firm of Alfred Mylne II, which he joined in 1959 and took over in 1979, and which continues to this day.

Ian had always been intrigued by sailing and yacht design as a young man, having been influenced and encouraged by his father who was also a naval architect.

He began his career in naval architecture as an apprentice to Fred Parker in Poole in 1945, just before the end of the Second World War. Parker was one of the top 10 yacht designers at the time, and as well as designing the boats, he acted as the yard manager, overseeing the construction of the yachts as they were built. In his spare time, Ian would sail his dinghy around Poole harbour, exploring the many coves and creeks in the area.

It was at this time that Ian also began his career as an author, writing articles for any publication that would pay him for his work. To further his career and continue his training, Ian moved to Southampton to complete his journeymanship with John I Thornycroft Ltd. When his father died, Ian and his sister invested their inheritance in a small sailing yacht which they raced regularly.

Over the following years, Ian bought and restored, or rebuilt, several yachts which he raced along the south coast of England, and on occasion, over to France as well.

Always looking for adventure, in 1951, Ian set sail across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal and up the west coast of America to Vancouver. In 1951 he got himself a job with Thornton Grenfell, Canada’s premier motor yacht designer. During the day Ian would design motor boats, but in the evenings he followed his true calling, and would design sailboats, which he sold to fund his next adventure. Having hitch-hiked across Canada, Ian reached Chester, Nova Scotia where he set about building one of his designs, St. Elizabeth. Once completed, it was time to return to home and he sailed back to England single-handedly.

Upon his return, Ian married Morag, and as they began their life together, they set off in St. Elizabeth, sailing up the east coast of England to the Firth of Forth, and then navigated the Forth & Clyde Canal to arrive in Glasgow.

In 1959, Ian joined Alfred Mylne II, the Glasgow based yacht designer, whose family was associated with many of the classic yachts that were sailed and raced on the Clyde in the early to mid-20th century, many of which were own by the wealthy Glasgow merchants who had homes in the Helensburgh and Kilcreggan area.

Ian took over the firm in 1979 when Alfred Mylne died, and has continued to design yachts to this day. Over the years, he constructed many dinghies, and designed and built six yachts for himself and his family, which he has raced and sailed all over the west coast of Scotland and beyond.

Having started writing articles as an apprentice, Ian got a job writing a column for, Yachts & Yachting, when he returned from Canada. This was a demanding job, requiring 8 technical drawings and associated captions for each fortnightly publication. He left this position when he moved to Glasgow to work with Mylne, but continued to write monthly columns for Yachting Life, and later Water Craft, which he continues to this day.

Ian is a prolific author, having written and published 28 books, on the design, construction and handling of sailing yachts, and including a trilogy based on his own sailing adventures.

Having been treated to a snapshot of Ian’s life, RNCYC members were treated to a snapshot of Ian’s life in February, but there are many more tales to tell. We hope that he will return soon to share more of his memories and insights.

from a lifetime on the waves.