Tim Whelpton collapsed and died at yacht club

Olympic yachtsman, sailor and Broadland boatbuilder Tim Whelpton, has died aged 80. Tim built and crewed Sir Timothy Colman’s Crossbow II twin-hulled boat which set speed records in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Tim collapsed at the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club, at Lowestoft, during a party to raise funds for the Excelsior Trust.

He came from a sailing family, in which his doctor grandfather had a fleet of fishing smacks based in Essex. He came to Norfolk after his father had been invalided out of the navy and their floating home had been bombed. He became an apprentice at the Ernest Woods boatyard at Horning.

After World War II he had the chance to deliver yachts to the Mediterranean. “I got six weeks leave to deliver a boat and came back seven years later,” he recalled.

As a professional skipper, he became hooked on speed sailing thanks to Norfolk punt racing on Barton Broad.

He qualified at Cowes for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics after winning the British Star Championships and was the official reserve. He met his wife Anne by chance when he was sailing with his sister Evadne.

They married in 1959 and later started the Eastwood Whelpton boatyard with Evadne and her husband. They built up the hire fleet thanks to initial support from Norwich businessman Vic Harrison, and today Mrs Whelpton runs a thriving commercial hire fleet of sailing craft from Upton.

Tim later became involved with Sir Timothy’s efforts to break the world speed sailing record after the initial success of Crossbow in October 1972. She became the first sailing boat to be timed at more than 30mph with an official speed of 26.3 knots. The original designer, Rod MacAlpine-Downie, and crew of the 55ft proa, skippered by the then Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Sir Timothy, set further records over the years.

Then in November 1980 in Portland Harbour, Dorset, Crossbow II, with her distinctive logo, set a sailing record of 36.4 knots, or 41mph, in a force 8 gale.

Picture by Eastern Daily Press.