Solent Unviersity Southampton logo
Solent Unviersity Southampton logo
Skip to main content

Alumni, staff and students celebrated 50 years of yacht design at Solent University with a conference and gala dinner.

24th September 2019

From world-renowned yacht designers to maritime business leaders, more than 130 alumni sailed into Southampton on Saturday 21 September 2019 to celebrate 50 years of yacht design at Solent University.

The first yacht engineering courses began in 1969 with students graduating with either HNCs or HNDs. From these humble beginnings, two popular courses emerged in the 1980s, Institute Diploma in Yacht & Boat Design and the College Diploma in Yacht & Boatyard management.

And, in 1990 the institution’s first two degree courses were launched. Following on from the success of the degrees in Yacht and Powercraft Design and Yacht Design and Production, the University recently launched the one year MSc program, MSc Superyacht Design.


During the day, attending alumni were able to meet up with past and present staff and students, take a selection of tours – including a maritime simulation tour - and listen to academic papers, before sitting down in the evening to a gala dinner and keynote speaker - one of sailing's leading journalists and alumnus, Matthew Sheahan.

The class of 1981 meet in the same classroom they were taught in

Speaking at the event, Giles Barkley, Course Leader in Yacht Engineering, said: “This is not just about celebrating 50 years of this university delivering world-leading courses in naval architecture, yacht design and yacht production; it is also about looking to the future and to the next 50 years.

“Looking at everyone here today, it is evident that we have a strong and international network of Yacht Engineering professionals. 

“Our original courses have evolved and are regularly updated, and recognised not only here in the UK but all over the globe. This has to be quite an achievement for both the course and the University.”

Jason Ker catching up with alumni

Alumnus and Honorary Doctorate Jason Ker, Director at Ker Yacht Design and designer of many famous race yachts including Americas Cup yachts, was pleased to be back in the building.

“It was great to see old classmates, it felt like a family reunion. The course has always provided a good foundation of practical and academic marine design and engineering knowledge,” he said.

“It is clear that in addition to its wide success in the specialisation of Yacht Design, the course has set old classmates off into exceptional careers in race car engineering and ship design.”


Andrew MacFarlan, Head of Composite Design at Red Bull, who graduated in 1995 with a BEng (Hons) in Yacht and Powercraft Design, spent four years in the marine industry before switching his skills to Formula 1 in 1999.

“The principles you learn as a naval architect or a yacht designer are transferable to the design of many things, but certainly to F1 cars,” he added. “All the materials and structural analysis, general design and engineering, centre of gravity – all of these things are completely transferable.”

More than 200 people attended the gala dinner

Solent continues to produce graduates who shape the world of sailing, including Guillame Verdier, who designed the yachts that came both first and second at 2012 Vendee Globe.

On the sailing-side, world-class alumni include: Helena Lucas, who won Great Britain’s first ever sailing gold at the 2012 Paralympics; Paul Goodison who took gold at the 2008 Olympics; and Herve Piveteau, who sailed to victory in the Production Boat Class at the Mini Transat 2008.