Sir Ben Ainslie thanks local apprentices who built his Americas Cup RIBs

Published: 7th October 2015

Published by City College Southampton

For most young people, a Duke of Edinburgh Award or week of work experience is a welcome boost to their CV. But a group of youngsters from Hampshire have something very different to shout about as they start their careers, having hand built a pair of boats for an Olympic sailor.

Apprentices studying at our specialist Marine Skills Centre had some real-life experience this year and last as they were commissioned to build two RIBS (Rigid Inflatable Boats) for Sir Ben Ainslie to use in his America's Cup challenge.

On October 6 they headed to the Land Rover BAR base in Portsmouth to meet the man himself and see the fruits of their labour on the water.

The docking RIBs were designed specifically for the 34th America's Cup to help berth the huge, foiling multihulls. They have a highly innovative design, powered by a centrally positioned outboard that can be rotated through 360 degrees to push the boat in any direction. This makes them very manoeuvrable, an important asset when they are used to move the AC45 and AC62 America’s Cup boats into their berths.


Darren Patten, the marine lecturer from City College who led the project, said: “This has been an incredible opportunity for our apprentices. The project has taught them everything from the building of the mould, through the composite construction, fairing and finally the fit out of the tubes and electronics. More importantly, it’s given them vital experience in being commissioned for a real project and who better to say you’ve built a boat for than Sir Ben Ainslie?”

Danielle Thomas is one of Green Marine's boat building apprentices, and she worked on the Docking RIBs as part of her coursework at the college. “This is such a memorable career moment for me and I'm still only an apprentice,” said Danielle. “I can’t believe I am working on a project for one of the world’s greatest sailing teams, Land Rover BAR. My ultimate goal is travel the world, building high-profile, high performance boats. That's the dream. But first, I'll finish my apprenticeship and get to see my fine work in action.”

The majority of students who worked on the RIBs were Level 2 and Level 3 apprentice boat builders and engineers, studying for City and Guilds qualifications. Many of them work for local marine companies, which have also supported the project by giving the young people extra time at the college to work on it.

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