The French family has built yachts of all shapes and sizes for three generations. It all began with Bob French, who was part of the first Australian Olympic sailing team in 1948. Bob built his own Star class boats in his backyard, and competed in a total of three Olympic Games.
Bob’s son Jim was the next to pick up the mantle. Indeed, one of his first achievements in the yachting world was to design and build some of the best lightweight scow and skiff moths, winning national and world championships. As a young man, Jim became friends with well-known moth designer Andrew McDougall. Together they created the Wombat series skiffs, which Jim built.
But he wasn’t just good at building moths, Jim was also a top sailor in the 1970s and 80s, during which time he met Dr Ian Ward. They forged a friendship that continues to this day, based on a mutual love of design and development. Both have a passion for getting the best out of their equipment.
Ian invented centre-line foiling on a moth in 1999 and has been experimenting with new foiling configurations ever since. Ian has been an integral part of the Skeeta story.
Jim’s prowess led him to build sailboards for Olympic gold medallists, including Bruce Kendall and Bruce Wylie. At the opposite end of the scale, Jim’s was involved building two Sydney to Hobart winners. He also cemented his reputation in Australian sailing by building more than 400 Pacer Dinghies, and taking some of them to state and national titles.
Jim French has also made a name for himself in other high-speed pursuits. He’s spent many years building components for Australia’s V8 Supercars Championship and GT production cars including Ferrari, Lamborghini and Mosler. He also helps design and build the carbon-fibre bodywork for the famous Irving Vincent Motorcycles.
For many years Jim has crafted the carbon-fibre elements of the trophies for the Australian Formula 1 and MotoGP championship races, won by the likes of Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner.
Jim’s youngest son David has worked alongside his father in developing the Skeeta, drawing on his own area of expertise. David began his career as a fitter and machinist working in motorsport, aerospace, automation and medical research. David’s highly-specialised skills in CNC machining, CAD design and fabrication allows us to design, manufacture and test new components, completely in-house. You won’t find them anywhere else!
Skeeta’s relationship with Ian Ward has led it to work closely with one of the founders of Quant Boats, Michael Aeppli. It’s an ideal match, as Michael is another foiling pioneer who helped create the first ever foiling keelboat, the Quant 23. Michael has lent his extensive marketing and design talents to the project, bringing the Skeeta to the world!
Skeeta Watersports is proud to be a family-run business. This project would not be possible without the support and contributions of the French family, including Jim’s wife Leanne, and David’s older siblings Amelia and Robert.
Special thanks also go to the Ward family, including Ian’s wife Caroline and children Nicola and Harry.