Bristol - Fast On Water 2017

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Bristol Boats Limited
In 1959 Charlie Sheppard was a successful garage owner. He had a car showroom, service centre and petrol filling station in Brislington, Bristol. One day someone brought a wooden runabout in as a part exchange against a car. The runabout sold easily and Charlie wanted to buy others to sell. Some while later Charlie was having difficulty getting enough of the kind of boats that seemed to sell well.
He bought an old paintwork factory in Saltford, near Bristol and set about building boats. First of all they built Enterprise sailing dinghies, then later manufactured fibreglass (GRP) workboats, dinghies, composite sailing cruisers and speedboats. Initially the designer was Claude Nethercott but when he left the company Charlie took on the boat design himself.
By now, the early 1960’s, Charlie’s interest in racing powerboats was greater than his interest in family boats or workboats. Even so, every major waterboard in the country had fishing/workboats designed and made by Bristol boats. The range  of workboats was from 12ft to 24ft and all had the distinctive clinker-look. The gunwhales were timber, as were the thwarts, knees and stringers. This traditional look was perfect when combined with the practicalities of GRP.
The racing boats: the flat-bottomed ‘Sheeza-B’ driven by the young John Hill, ‘Emma Jane’ driven by Charlie’s son Andrew, through the deep-V hulls of the EU class driven by John Pearce, Albert Hoy, Derek Thompson, the  larger ON class boats driven by the legendary Don Ross, Jackie Wilson and Brian Hunt, on to the pickle-fork catamarans, stepped-hull catamarans and heart-stopping speeds of the OZ class driven by Tony Williams, Alf Bullen, Peter Inward, Brian Kendall  and so many more.

Bristol SE catamaran.
Soggy Moggy  in the Pits Area outside of the 
Unicorn Hotel. Embassy Grand Prix, Bristol 1972.
Bristol Boats were sold all over the world. Racing powerboats were shipped out to Australia, South Africa, USA, Bermuda and Europe – notably Holland, Norway and Italy. The fishing workboats were shipped out to Turks and Caicos Islands, South America  and Spain.
Bristol Boats became famous for being well-designed, well built and race winners. World Championship titles followed and Charlie’s interest in race-management and race organisation eventually took him away more and more from the boatyard in Saltford.  During this time he instigated races in Bristol, Cardiff, Dublin and South Africa.
He retired from business in 1978 and after a couple of unsuccessful attempts at franchising out the building of Bristol Boats, his son Andrew took on the boatyard. The workboats are still built there but - like the man who invented the everlasting  light bulb - Charlie’s workboats built in GRP didn’t need replacing very often! The small GRP circuit racers continued to be built until well into the 1990s but the shift from GRP back to plywood for the ultra-light super-cats being built by the likes of Renato Molinari and Chris Hodges was not followed by Bristol Boats. ‘Bristol Boats’ is now mainly a retail oulet for all things nautical and concentrates on repairs in the workshop rather than new-build.
Just a few of the famous Bristol Boats:
  • Soggy Moggy – driven by Brian Kendall and Andy Pugh in the Paris six hour race.
  • Western Credit – driven by Keith Horseman, Carl Dawson and Curly Brooks in the first Round - Britain race.
  • Sheeza-B – flat bottomed Bristol Boat driven by John Hill.
  • Emma Jane – EU Class driven by Andrew Sheppard.
  • Ony-1 – EU Class driven by Tony Williams.
  • Wombolts and Great Uncle Bulgaria – Tony and Bella Covill (from Wimbledon – hence the names!).
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Due to the closure of the Basildon Motor Boat Museum, we have become the custodians of the ‘Charlie Sheppard Archive’. The archive contains the paper ephemera collected by Charlie during  his years of involvement with the CMBRC, the Embassy Grands Prix and the 1975 races in Cardiff Docks. The archive will be available to anyone who wishes to access its contents.
If you would like any further info on the Charlie Sheppard Archive please email
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