Ian Douglas Ben Proctor FRSA RDI (12 July 1918 – 23 July 1992), known as Ian Proctor, was a British designer of boats, both sailing dinghies and cruisers. He had more than one hundred designs to his credit, from which an estimate of at least 65,000 boats were built. His pioneering aluminium mast designs also revolutionised the sport of sailing.
Early life and education
Proctor was a son of Douglas McIntyre Proctor and Mary Albina Louise Proctor (née Tredwen). He was educated at Gresham's School in Holt, Norfolk. After leaving school, he studied at the University of London.
In 1943, he married Elizabeth Anne Gifford Lywood, the daughter of Air Vice-Marshal O. G. Lywood, CB, CBE. They had three sons and a daughter.
From 1942 to 1946, during World War II, Proctor was a Flying Officer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. From 1947 to 1948, he was Managing Director of Gosport Yacht Co., then, from 1948 to 1950, he was joint editor of Yachtsman Magazine.
Ian Proctor first began to design dinghies professionally in 1950. The National 12 was soon followed by the Merlin Rocket. Proctor's early designs were met with immediate success, winning championships from 1950 to 1952. His design of Proctor Spars revolutionised dinghy sailing. Then in 1958 he penned the evergreen Wayfarer, which soon became a hit with sailing schools and still has a solid following in racing and cruising circles. Indeed, a Wayfarer was sailed from the UK to Norway and Iceland by Frank Dye, and this boat is now on display at the National Maritime Museum, Falmouth.
The most widely known of all Ian Proctor designs has to be the Topper of which more than 46,000 have been produced to date. This was the first sailing dinghy to be produced from injection moulded plastic; a system which cost a million pounds to set up and was the largest single mold at the time. The first boats however were built from glassfibre (GRP). There is a large topper racing circuit in the UK and also like the Wanderer has an enthusiastic racing following.
Although better known for his dinghy designs and metal masts, Ian Proctor was also responsible for the design of several small cruisers. His first cruiser was the Seagull for Bell Woodworking, followed shortly afterwards by the Seamew. Later on there was the Nimrod, Eclipse, Pirate, and the Prelude.
In 1953 Ian Proctor's 'Cirrus' had an all-metal mast. Proctor quickly realised the potential of metal masts and in 1953 he designed the first all-metal tapered and extruded mast for sailing dinghies. Then in 1955 he established 'Ian Proctor Metal Masts Limited' as a commercial venture. Proctor Masts soon became the leading metal mast producers for all types of sailing craft. Indeed by 1960, 13 different countries were using Proctor masts in the Olympics and the 1987 America's Cup featured 12 boats using Proctor masts.
Proctor Masts eventually became part of the Sélden group, and now trade as Sélden masts.
Proctor wrote extensively about sailing. As well as his earlier stint as joint editor of Yachtsman Magazine, he was, from 1950 to 1964, the yachting correspondent of the Daily Telegraph. His books included:
- Racing Dinghy Handling, 1948
- Racing Dinghy Maintenance, 1949
- Sailing: Wind and Current, 1950
- Boats for Sailing, 1968
- Sailing Strategy, 1977
Ian Proctor Designs
- Blue Peter
- Leprechaun (dinghy), Built by Thomas Thompson of Carlow and adopted by Blessington Sailing Club. (About 10 boats built.)
- Merlin Rocket
- Eclipse, commissioned by Newbridge Yachts.
- National 18 (1968)
- Nimrod, commissioned by Westerly
- Pirate, commissioned by Rydgeway Marine
- Prelude, commissioned by Rydgeway Marine
- Seagull, commissioned by Bell Woodworking
- Seamew, commissioned by Bell Woodworking
- The Osprey is raced as a One-Design class and despite the cosmetic improvements that have occurred since the designs inception, older boats can still (and often do) compete at the top end of the fleet.
- Kestrel, the first dinghy designed to be built in glass fibre.
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Honours and awards
- Royal Designer for Industry
- Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts
- Yachtsman of the Year, 1965. Unusually awarded for his work as a designer rather as a noted yachtsman.
- Council of Industrial Design Award, 1967
- Design Council Awards, 1977, 1980
- Who's Who? 2009 & Who Was Who, Oxford University Press, 2009, online edition, 2009
- "Ian Proctor remembered". Yachting Monthly. October 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-25.
Ian Proctor's innovative designs and ideas modernised the whole concept of small boat sailing, making a vital contribution to the popularisation of the sport. He designed over 100 different boats and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Royal Designer for Industry.
- A conservative estimate given that the Topper Class Association (http://www.itcaworld.org) states that almost 50,000 have been produced; the UK Wayfarer Class Association (http://www.wayfarer.org.uk) mentions over 10,000; the Wikipedia Gull article shows sail numbers over 2,500; National 12 Class Association (http://www.national12.org/boats/index.php) identifies over 3500; the Wanderer Class Association (http://www.wanderer.org.uk/) has sail numbers beyond 1600 and Kestrels (see http://www.hartleylaminates.co.uk/) have sail numbers over 1500
- I Will Plant Me a Tree: an Illustrated History of Gresham's School by S.G.G. Benson and Martin Crossley Evans (James & James, London, 2002) p. 39
- The History and Register of Gresham's School, 1555-1954 (Ipswich, 1955)
- Dye, Frank: Ocean-crossing Wayfarer (David and Charles, London, 1977) ISBN 0-7153-7371-4
- "The West Country Cruise on the River Tamar - Sept 6/7th 2003". Retrieved 2008-11-23.
Besides the Wanderer fleet, Janet and Anthony Byrde in their Drascombe and Richard and Peter Goodfellow, in another Ian Proctor designed dinghy called a Beaufort, were sharing the Cruise with us.
- "SigneTs". Ben Mitchell. Retrieved 2007-10-24.
- Osprey Racer at hartleylaminates.co.uk (accessed 23 November 2007)
- "Osprey Sailing Dinghy". Retrieved 2009-09-08.
- Proctor, Ian. "The Dinghy: Forward". Kestrel Owners' Association. Retrieved 2009-09-08.