Graduate Roger Gambon on his experience at IBTC Portsmouth

Graduate Roger Gambon on his experience at IBTC Portsmouth

What inspired me to train at IBTC Portsmouth?

It is difficult to say…. It goes back to my childhood. Whenever I saw a boat sail through the water powered just by the wind and tide, it felt good and created this flow of positive energy in me. It was perhaps linked to a wish to go out to sea on a boat, to be independent and discover the whole world. To be totally free. But in a way it was more than that, especially when it came to old wooden boats. It was the beauty of their construction, their history and then the material – wood. Wood has soul, it comes from nature and takes time to grow. You can ‘feel’ this in a wooden boat. It’s alive – organic and not ‘dead’ like fiberglass.


This fascination has created a desire in me to want to learn how to build a wooden boat. I started reading a lot about boats, design and constructions to understand what does building a boat involve. In 2012 it became clear to me, that I wanted to go the professional route and I needed to find a school where I could learn  boatbuilding. I have chosen Portsmouth because of a milder climate in comparison to Newport, USA and because it was closer to home, Switzerland.

My time at IBTC Portsmouth

I started the course on the 6th of July 2015. Six men of different ages and backgrounds were standing in the Joinery of Boathouse 5, most of them with brand new set of tools on their benches. I remember, I was so curious and quite nervous. Mark, the Welshman with his fantastic humor did a really good job teaching us the joints. I was very slow, especially at the beginning, but  got a bit faster towards the end! We had so much fun in the Joinery Course. The time on the workshop floor after the Joinery Course was quite hard at the beginning. Also because of the move from Boathouse 5 to Boathouse 4. It was like leaving the nest for the first time. Everything was new, a structure had to be put in place and the boats had to be prepared before we could start restoring them. I was worried about whether I would be able to complete my Diploma on time. But everything worked out for the best.

Jim, the Yard Manager was supporting us with his enthusiastic spirit. I always felt his love for boats and I really appreciated the time he took to answer all my questions. Bob, our Boatbuilding Instructor – a real gentleman, a placid and modest person, always  had a solution for every boatbuilding problem. I learnt a lot of little tricks from him. Jimmy, the Chief Instructor, overlooked and managed everything so I was able to learn all the skills in this short time. I pay tribute to his accuracy, he was always expecting high standards. I need to mention Tiger as well, our Store and Machineshop man: if you have no idea how to solve a problem, go and ask Tiger!!

And yes thank to Fran, the Student Liaison Officer, for her kindness and support with administration-realted questions. My mother tongue is Swiss-German and Gill helped me with English translations during the exam period. She was like a mother to me that week – many thanks! I’m very proud to be the first student who got the City and Guilds Diploma at IBTC-Portsmouth.

What I’m doing now?

I’m teaching German, history, geography and woodwork in a secondary school in Basel, Switzerland. I’m currently looking for a shed, where I can start building the Haven 12.5. I miss boatbuilding at the moment and need to visit Portsmouth very soon!

Roger Gambon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *