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Yacht design sketches by Nadia Lele

Nadia Lele

BEng (Hons) Yacht and Powercraft Design

Graduated 2017

Nadia Lele

It’s hard to select a special uni moment, there were so many. Every person on my course (including our tutors and lecturers) had one thing in common – a strong love of boats; and having a common interest is what makes the course like a big family, which is quite unusual.

And the course absolutely meets the demands of the modern yachting and shipbuilding industry. The access to the towing tank, stability tank, FRP workshop and CAD room full of the most advanced programs were vital. It is an engineering course, that is why apart from knowing the rules, maths, and physics, it is important to understand how things work.

Group projects are also industry-driven, and reflect real company dynamics. For our final first year assignment we had to design a model boat to a box rule, using basic principles of naval architecture, and build it in the Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP) workshop. We raced our little yachts in Gosport. It was a really cool challenge, everyone was really competitive from the beginning and we all had a lot of fun.

I recommend this course for all those who want to start a career in yacht design industry. University helped me to get closer to my dreams, and I wish you the same.

Plus the lecturers have an enormous amount of experience, which inspires you a lot and they make clear how the industry works. By the end of the course I had a bit of everything – naval architect, structural engineer, and stylist knowledge. It was a hard choice on what to do next.

In my second year I was representing Solent University at the London Boat Show and won a couple of days' work experience in Olesinski Naval Architects, a yacht design company based on the Isle of Wight. This was a prize for the second place in the Young Designer Competition held by Superyacht UK and British Marine. Now I work at the company as a structural engineer. We have all three disciplines in-house – design, naval architecture and structural engineering – which is quite rare. 

In structures we make things work. One day it is a development of the entire hull structure, another day it is an analysis of a particular part of the boat, like a giant sliding roof or cleat support laminate.

The tasks are so varied and challenging. Mainly we work with composite structures, so it is never boring. We do hand calculations, design lay-ups, create a full representation of all structural elements using 3D modelling and drafting, and complete FEA (Finite Element Analysis). Thanks to the yacht and powercraft course I was absolutely ready for completing all these tasks.

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Model yachts in our advanced composites laboratory

Matt Ponsford

BEng (Hons) Yacht Production and Surveying  

Graduated 2015

Matt Ponsford

How did university prepare you for your career?
Education can teach you many things, but University in particular teaches you skills and techniques beyond pen and paper. The course prepared myself and others for the careers we have gone onto more so than I could of asked. I was able to graduate to a professional working environment with relative ease and finding job applications with various recruitment agencies was also a simple process due to the course name itself being well respected in the industry. 

Favourite Solent memory
Graduation! No matter how many nights out (remembered or not), socials, fun days etc, nothing will trump that feeling when your name is called and you take possession of your degree certificate on stage! 

Tell us a little about your career story so far?
My career has been unlike I expected so far. I started with a very well known yacht designer in Southampton for three months before being given an amazing opportunity at a new company with a friend of mine. I am now able to head up the design process, this includes everything from initial designs, rapid prototyping, mould making and final production. Whilst we are a small business we are already selling products worldwide with products being shipped as far as Australia. 

Tell us about what you are doing now and what it involves – a typical working day
A typical working day for us does not really exist for us! Whilst I enjoy a structured week as much as the next person, or business revolves around custom composite design and production, including the production of our own hydrofoiling dinghy (International Moth). A typical week can begin by creating a set of carbon fibre hydrofoils and end with building a mould tool to produce carbon fibre car panels. I love the variety, especially as the scope for design and production techniques allows for a lot of free/outside the box thinking. 

What’s your career highlight so far?
My career highlight so far is hopefully about to be realised as we near completion of a new International Moth design of my own design. Fingers crossed!

What tips would you give to someone wanting a career in your industry?
You are likely to be working for the next 40 years or more so make sure it is doing something you love! The marine industry is very easy to get in to, with a vast array of careers available, almost more so than any other industry. Keep your options open, take any opportunities that come your way as it is better to say you gave it a go, than to regret and not know what could have been.

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Josh Bowen in car with the dual controls technology he worked on

Josh Bowen

BEng (Hons) Electronic Engineering

Graduated 2015

Josh Bowen headshot

I have seen a lot of universities where academic standing and proprietary research has a much higher priority than their student’s studies. Solent has it right however, with industry focused courses and lecturers with diverse working backgrounds and experience.

The staff are extremely accommodating and easy to talk to, making Solent University a very comfortable learning environment – and I met some good friends while studying at Solent, both students and staff.

With a firmly grounded foundation in maths and physics, I felt confident what I was learning would give me a good starting point in my career, which it has. I was even able to start my career during the summer breaks when I worked for a defence engineering firm.

This gave me a good standing for when I graduated, to then be selected to be involved in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership – a government scheme between the university and an outside private company where I was involved in using the combined expertise of both parties to develop innovative new products.

I have since been taken on by the company, He-Man Dual Controls, as they were pleased with my progress and wanted to continue after the project ended. He-Man is a small company dedicated to producing dual control pedals for driving tuition vehicles.

As the electronic engineer for the company, a typical working day includes overseeing the entire design/development cycle of any new electronic products as well as developing our other experimental projects. I am also involved in technical sales logistics, which includes the testing of our products to pass different international market standards.

If you are looking for a career in engineering, as with any industry, you shouldn’t need a reason to give 100%

Each stepping stone in my career has been memorable so far from one exciting point to the next, with a new set of challenges and a new opportunity to indulge my passion for engineering. Every challenge helps me learn something new that I can use on subsequent projects and the possibilities of what can be designed and accomplished are endless. 

If you have the freedom to choose your career, then you should do something you love, ask yourself the question, would you still do it if you didn’t get paid? As with me I love electronics and am constantly volunteering my own time for out of work activates as well as my own projects.

And I am still constantly involved with Solent University as I find the staff members extremely friendly and open to collaboration and consultation."

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Model yachts in our advanced composites laboratory

Alex Lee

BEng (Hons) Yacht Design and Production

Graduated 2017

Alex Lee

After finishing his degree at Solent, Alex was awarded the RINA - BAE Systems Student Naval Architect Award for the best final year project and the RINA and IMarEST Southern Joint Branch prize for the top final year student in the same year. “This led to my employment at Laurent Giles Naval Architects,” Alex says, “where I complete preliminary design work, 3D modelling and production drawings for large yachts and superyachts.

“On a typical working day, I’ll do about three hours’ design (preliminary or for production), three hours of 3D modelling, two hours of report writing… and don’t forget lunch! Every day is different though!”

Work hard and be open minded. I started off the degree with a love for sailing and sailing yachts but quickly discovered the wonder of the engineering behind the motor yacht.

His time at Solent University really helped prepare him for work in the real world. “The yacht engineering courses at Solent provide you with the knowledge and software familiarity required to step into the industry and continue your professional development.

“Going into the superyacht industry, I have been equipped to deal with a range of tasks from preliminary design to production drawings for boats almost ten times the length of my dissertation!”

Part of what helped prepare Alex for work in the yacht design industry was Solent University’s focus on practical skills and real-world problem solving. Alex’s favourite memory? “Taking part in the model yacht race at the end of first year. I loved designing and manufacturing my model but seeing it race was fantastic. One of the best things about this line of work is seeing something you design come to fruition.”

Yet even all his practical work at Solent University didn’t prepare him for the real thing. “I recently visited one of our projects in build, which was fantastic to see because it brings all of the drawings produced to life. I also attended the Fort Lauderdale International Boat show, which was an incredible experience.”

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