IBTC Lowestoft prides itself on the broad age range of its students which helps to create a vibrant atmosphere in the workshops. Our mature students bring with them their life experiences, informing and enriching the experiences of others. We recently focused on John Bacon (Not just boats – FURNITURE!) who had spent 25 years restoring pre-war racing cars before taking the 47-week course. He now embarks on a new career making fine furniture in the South of France.

Chris Barker, a retired dentist, also recently graduated. Chris (on the right of the photo) grew up in Northumberland and followed his sister and brother into dentistry, qualifying at Newcastle University in 1970. He practised for over 40 years.

‘I had enjoyed every minute of my time as a dentist but retiring at the “top of my game” was one of my best decisions. I had a love of sailing and wooden boats so the following week I visited IBTC in Lowestoft looking for a new challenge. I had no experience of woodworking apart from limited DIY. Two years on I am surprised to find myself in possession of new qualifications and skills I never dreamed I could master, but with the encouragement and expertise of the dedicated staff and students at IBTC, technical dentistry is a distant memory. Working and learning with such enthusiastic people has been a privilege and the most enormous fun. I’ve commissioned a new build Nordic Folkboat as a teaching project at IBTC so, happily, will retain links with the college and East Anglia for many years to come.’

The Nordic Folk Boat is a 25 foot 1942 Swedish design by Tord Sundén. Sometimes named the VW of the seas, the concept was to make a boat for the common man and has proved to be one of the most popular designs of all time. Chris once owned an English version of carvel rather than clinker construction, and sailed and raced her in Falmouth regatta for many years. Chris’s new Folk Boat “Bonnie Lass” is at the very earliest stage of lofting and construction. With her keel cast and transom made by mature student Neil Fitzgerald (shown above left helping Chris) work is underway and we look forward to following her progress.