The Kemp Team 'Biogs'

One of the best reasons to buy from Kemp Sails is the experience and the dedication of the team that we have, so we thought you may like to know who the team is, and have a snapshot of our backgrounds!  So, here is a flavour of some of Kemp Sails' key people:

Rob Kemp - Managing Director

Rob Kemp

Rob helming his Sun Fast 32

"I started sailing when I was 4 sat in the bottom of a dinghy on the river Thames- and that’s a long time ago now!

A move from Hampton to Poole by my father’s work commitments turned out to be a life defining moment for me. My parents joined our local sailing club, Poole YC and that was the inspiration for a life dedicated to all things to do with the water.

My first boat was a rather old Gull dinghy that my father had lying around in the garden, after some  serious TLC it was ready for its first sailing outing in years. Back then the whole learning to sailing thing was rather seat of the pants, no formal training, just a book with a few pictures and off we went. I can still clearly remember the sound of falling  pots and pans as we hit the side of a moored yacht as I and my crew had not quite mastered the turning around thing!  

After this rather traumatic start and some more practice I was ready to trade in the trusty Gull for a Mirror which I then learned how sail properly and to race. This was followed by a whole series off different dinghies and yachts.

Since my first boat, the aforementioned Mirror, I have pretty much sailed and raced anything that floats, including Windsurfers, International Moths, Micro-Tonners, Mini-Tonners. Competed in Quarter and Half Ton Cups, plus a host of offshore events.  

I spent several years travelling all over the globe with a match racing team, but now that my kids have developed a rather addictive dinghy racing habit our beloved Jeaneau Sunfast 32 (which we also raced locally) has gone.  The match racing has taken a back seat and I am now chief taxi service, maintenance guy and all round 'facilitator' for my son and daughter. Currently my son races in the GBR Laser squad and my daughter also races Lasers and is now at Uni so also team racing alongside her Laser and Off shore events.

Most weekends are now spent travelling to various events in and around the UK and now Europe ,the A34, the road to everywhere! - is a common route for us on a Friday night. If you see one the Kemp vans at an event - do come and say Hi!

Currently I sail a Laser, it’s quick simple boat to rig, pain full as hell to race properly but great fun. Alastair my cousin and our loft manager also races one so there is some regular loft banter the following day after racing depending on who beat who, made even better if my kids beat us both!

In my spare time I am heavily involved in the Poole YC junior training program, helping to coach the next generation of sailors and assisting my wife Juliette with her role as South Area Topper Class  Training Rep. I get to spend a lot of time in a rib, coach some great kids who will be the sailors of the future and, as in the picture below, have a great time on the water, both working in an industry I love and having fun at the same time, who said work was dull!"


David Kemp - Chairman

"As a child I lived in Twickenham, within a short walk of the river and when not involved in Rugby, playing for the school and later the local team, I was always in, on, or around the river front helping the local boat builders and ferrymen prepare and operate their Thames Skiffs.

In the early sixties Linda, my new bride and I were living and working in London – it was a work colleague that introduced us to sailing.  A doctor friend of his would loan us his boat “Sea Flower”, a thirty foot wooden sloop with six berths and a lifting keel which we sailed out of Keyhaven in the West Solent, from a swinging mooring. tucked in just behind Hurst Castle.
In 1965 Robert arrived.  By then we had a Gull, a gunter rigged dinghy which we used to trail down to Devon for the annual pilgrimage to Salcombe and with Robert, at first in a carrycot, explored the many creeks and inlets between Salcombe and Kingsbridge.

By late 1968 my job as a Chartered Engineer entailed the family moving to Poole, where I was soon encouraged to join Poole Yacht Club and was introduced to the racing scene.   After a couple of seasons crewing mainly with the JOG class, Linda agreed that we should have our own yacht. At least then she would see more of me at week-ends, or at least that was my sales pitch!

So we bought “Tantrum”, an Achilles 24, from Butler Mouldings in the Gower.  She was part built with the hull and deck moulded together, all the internal bulkheads installed and with the bulb fin keel fitted – all we had to do was to fit her out with bunks, galley, toilet and engine, then assemble and fit the deck gear, the spars, the standard and running rigging and of course the sails.

With “Tantrum” and about six other Club members and their boats, we rejuvenated the “Tuesday Night” cruiser racing, mainly within the harbour with an occasional flurry outside, if time and tide permitted.  After nearly forty years “Tuesday Night Racing” is still going strong with boats from eighteen foot to over forty foot racing on handicap in a number of distinct classes.  As Cruiser Class Captain, serving as an elected member of the Club’s Management Committee and aided by my counterpart at Parkstone Yacht Club I formulated and published the “Poole Harbour Yacht Handicapping System”, an open and transparent method to generate a Time Multiplication Factor (TMF) enabling widely differing boats to race together which is still being used even beyond Poole albeit in a more developed form.

On my fortieth birthday I ordered “Topaz” an Achilles 840 developed by Chris Butler from his yacht that he had successfully raced single-handed across the Atlantic in AZAB (Azores and Back).  The family with friends continued our racing with her – Poole Tuesday nights, PYRA (Poole Yacht Racing Association), round the cans and passage racing at the week-ends along the coast and across the Channel to France and the Channel Islands, in the Solent and of course “Round the Island”.
When buying “Topaz” it was my dream to sell up and sail off, but as my career developed into Executive Management, Product Application and International Sales; and as Linda’s Advertising, marketing and PR business expanded that dream was put on hold and has slowly faded.

Having completed a Sailmaking Apprenticeship, Robert decided in 1985 to go it alone, and with advice and support from me, Linda and my Father-in-Law he started Kemp Sails Limited.  The little acorn was sewn.  The sapling has survived a number of financial storms and is still growing...not yet the greatest Oak, but sturdy and British!

As the years tick by at what appears to be an alarmingly increasing rate, we no longer race “Topaz”.  Robert and his family being very active with their own boats we no longer have ready access to a crew.  I have, therefore, adapted her for short-handed sailing.  Headsail furling came first with varying sail configurations.  A 140% All Purpose Genoa with foam luff, and a hi-aspect ratio blade jib for the windier days (I do not like sailing for too long or too far with a heavily reefed headsail).  I bend on the sail most suitable for the day’s conditions before we leave the dock. 
We still carry a storm jib, a relic from the racing days, but have not used it in earnest for many years.  If the weather is that bad we don’t go out and turn it into a “make and mend” day as there are always jobs to be done on a boat.  The spinnaker has also been relegated to those near windless days – no more windward drops as we round the downwind mark in a half gale!

All our halyards and sheets come back to the cockpit for easy handling.  We can also operate the anchor capstain from the cockpit reducing the frequency of having to visit the bows.  The latest innovation is a behind-mast-mainsail furling system.  I had always been an advocate of simple slab-reefing for the mainsail and using reefing spectacles on the luff and the new breed of ball-bearing blocks it is quick and easy whilst maintaining a good and efficient sail shape.   Especially easy with lines brought aft to the cockpit and used with a fully battened main or one of its derivatives (e.g. Powermain) and a Packaway.  However, at the end of the day, this system still requires someone to go forward to the mast foot to tidy up the bunt of the sail etc., another trip out of the cockpit we were trying to eliminate.   Therefore a Facnor system has been used where the main sleeve is attached using purpose anchor slides that fit into the aft luff groove of the mast.  In this way the assembly can easily be taken off should ever there be a desire to revert to a standard mainsail configuration.  The continuous furling line is also taken back to the cockpit.  So now we can “steer, hand and reef” all without leaving the cockpit.

It is now thirty-two years since we took delivery of “Topaz” after she had been exhibited at the Southampton Boat Show.  During this period she has been raced reasonably successfully, has been used to test and develop the Company’s innovative designs and products and in her current format has enabled us to keep sailing albeit now mainly in local waters.
Over the years working with our Son, the other Directors and the rest of the Team KS has been very fulfilling.  Of course there have been difficulties, as in any business, but the depth of knowledge and skills within the team and their enthusiasm, the product offering and the customer care this provides is for me the most satisfying and something that, as Company Chairman, I will strive to maintain and whenever possible improve upon."


David  Linda Kemp

David and Linda Kemp enjoying the Sun in Spain.

Linda Kemp - Director

"I started sailing in my early twenties, being introduced to this sport via a working colleague of my husband’s.  We caught the bug and during the very early years of our marriage had great fun sailing a Gull dinghy on the River Thames and every Summer looked forward to towing this dinghy down to Salcombe.  Robert was then in a “carry cot” strapped into the boat.  Robert sailed before he could even walk so the seed grew from there, of that I am certain.

From those happy days sailing up and down the River, enjoying picnics on the many islands dotted up and down the Thames we then moved to Dorset in the mid sixties, still with a dinghy on the back of the car as sailing was a firm favourite of ours.  After numerous visits to the Southampton and London Boat Shows we eventually took the plunge and put down a deposit on a brand new “kit form” Achilles 24 which we aptly called “Tantrum” built by Butler Mouldings based alongside the Gower in South Wales.  “Tantrum” was the apple in my husband’s eye and we used to race her as a family in Poole Harbour.  However, there was one downside with this yacht – you could not stand up down below! 

So, after much deliberation, we moved up to an Achilles 840 this time called “Topaz” which we still enjoy sailing to this day.  With the encroaching years – we are now both the wrong side of seventy, we asked Robert for advice on converting the rig to in-mast reefing and opted for a Facnor add-on system which we fitted ourselves at the end of last year, so that we can continue to enjoy sailing in our dotage.  Kemp Sails made a superb hi-tec in-mast mainsail for “Topaz” and we hope to put this conversion to the good use in the ensuing months. 

So from dinghies to sailing yachts it does not matter if you are seven or seventy you can always find a way of enjoying the challenge of being on the water and it need not cost a fortune either!!

As I jot down these observations we are fortunate enough to be out in sunny Spain, sitting under the Shade Sails also designed and produced by KEMP SAILS.  These Shade Sails can be “Bespoke” manufactured to suit exact specifications or ordered as 'off-the-peg' designs, and sizes are all clearly listed in our Shade Solutions webshop.

I have been happily involved with Kemp Sails as a Director, since its formation in 1985, when the Company first started in a small Loft in Wimborne, Dorset above the then Coachworks.  I had previously been employed for a number of years by Kingfisher Yachts in Poole, liaising with customers and assisting with their marketing.  In 1974 I launched my own Marketing/Direct Mailing business and I was able to bring this experience to the table when Robert registered Kemp Sails in the mid eighties.  Long may the “little grey cells” enable me to continue with this exciting work!"


Owain Peters

Owain Whitstable

Owain drinking tea aboard "Rum Juggernaut" off Flamborough Head

"The story goes that in a ‘Lion King’ style introduction, after leaving maternity hospital Mr and Mrs Peters brought their son down to the shore instead of going home, and pointed him at the sea, and at and their boat bobbing on it. The seed of a future in yachting was sown in that moment...

There followed a childhood where 3 point fixes were understood before I knew what trigonometry was, and trimming a boat became as natural as breathing. A very early memory of dolphins accompanying our entry to Scilly at dusk will probably stick with me forever now, and acts as a measure for every time I meet another pod!

As I got older, I discovered racing, and after a Mirror and then an Osprey (being tall limits the number of dinghies one can helm, and still have a crew to blame!), I then honed my skills crewing in yachts instead. In this, I was lucky to be involved with many teams (from Sonatas to a Swan 45), with some sailing to a very high standard indeed: the feeling of winning races in places like St Tropez or Antigua became intoxicating.

After University, I eventually managed to fund my own pocket cruiser, and we sailed her extensively and successfully over many years of corinthian racing through the noughties. This was alongside the Grand Prix events I competed in, and also the increasing number of delivery trips up and down (and to and from) the Mediterranean, as well as back and forth across the Atlantic which vastly increased my sea miles. In this way I got to see plenty of weather, and even swam in a 'superpod' of dolphins during the very quiet 2005 Fastnet (a close run for the Scilly experience all those years before!).

During this time, I had been earning my living in the highly competitive, and niche, UK electronics manufacturing sector. However, I eventually submitted to the inevitability of a career in sailing, when Rob Kemp invited me to work with him in 2006: in a drive to greater efficiency, the use of modern manufacturing methods is now being adopted at Kemp Sails to control costs, and keep prices as competitive as possible.

For many years I have supplemented my living with teaching yachting to the RYA syllabus, as well as with Clipper Ventures delivering their training up and down the Western Approaches: I still skipper a 40ft yacht at events such as Cowes week and Round The Island race. The sense of shared purpose (and the 'witty repartee') remains as exciting as ever, even if the challenges are different: as much of my commercial work remains with novices these days, the trophies are very much rarer...

My wife and I now own an MG C27 which we are slowly readying for joining in some local 'fun' racing. She was originally bought and prepared for a cruise round the UK over the summer of 2017 - see for the whole trip, during which we met a great many more dolphins too! 

I firmly believe that UK manufacturing, and the skills of my colleagues, are amongst the best in the world: it is therefore a privilege to be able to offer products which are borne of such formidable experience and knowledge as my peers and I bring to bear."


Alastair Kemp

"I was introduced to sailing at a very early age when my father and brother took out our newly acquired Mirror dinghy to try the spinnaker, on a day that was breezier than was perhaps entirely prudent.  Having never hoisted it before things did not go particularly smoothly, and my enduring memory of that day is of cowering in the bow lockers (it was quite a long time ago) whilst my crewmates had a full and frank exchange of views on how best to proceed.  After that shock it took a little while to coax me into an Optimist, on a somewhat calmer day, however I found that far more civilised.  Many happy years of dinghy sailing followed, moving back into a Mirror, albeit rather more successfully than my first outing and starting to go off to Opens and national level events, then into a 420.  I had dabbled in cruiser racing during this period, however it was the Commodores' Challenge, an annual match racing event held between Poole and Parkstone Yacht Clubs that gave me my first real taste of what keelboat racing could be.  From that point my focus shifted away from dinghies and, aside from a brief relapse into team racing in Fireflys my main sailing was all done in yachts.  I was very fortunate to be introduced to some excellent owners and crews, and have incredibly fond memories of initially local club racing, swiftly moving further afield into the Solent and beyond.

It was around this time that I undertook my first proper passage, which was a delivery to Cork for Cork Week.  I had never really liked sprayhoods up until then, as I thought they just got in the way.  After we took our first couple of waves however, I started to see the light.  Incidentally, that delivery also kindled a life-long love affair with tea...  It also led to taking my Yachtmaster, the practical for which involved short-tacking up the Beaulieu River at night with no instruments.  The examiner pointed out afterwards that he never said anything about the instruments not working, I had simply been practising in the preceding week and got carried away.

Through a sailing friend I was offered a couple of weeks work on a big Swan in Hamble and then a delivery down to the Med.  I naturally jumped at the chance, and off we went.  What I had anticipated to be a few weeks away turned into 3 years, during which time I saw a lot of the world (or at least its marinas and supermarkets) and partook in many large regattas and long deliveries, and enough polishing to last several lifetimes!

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed my time overseas, eventually the call of home was too strong to ignore any longer so I came back to Dorset.  Working for Rob felt like an incredibly natural step, having done the odd stint driving a seaming machine previously.  It is very satisfying bringing all of my racing and cruising experience to bear in an intensely practical way.

On the sailing front I am absolutely loving getting back to basics in a Laser.  Having raced with crews of 20+ where you are just one cog in a much bigger machine (great as that feels when everything meshes together perfectly) there is nothing quite like the rawness and simplicity of a basic single hander, when it is all on you and you stand or fall on your own split-second decisions and feel for the boat.  There is also the added bonus of occasionally beating the Boss! (and usually watching his children leaving you both in their wake)"


Andrew Clewer

"Being born to a GK24 and Yachting World Dayboat national champion, I was always destined for the sea, and my sailing education started young. Virtually all family time was spent on the water from an early age; whether it was exploring Poole Harbour in my fathers Dayboat, Channel crossings in our family yacht, or learning to race in my very own optimist dinghy.

Sailing multiple times a week, going to open meetings at the weekends and national championships in the holidays became the norm, and before I knew it I was the proud owner of my very own Optimist National squad jacket. As I out grew the Oppy it was traded in for a Mirror, followed by a 420. If there was ever a doubt, blasting around the Poole Harbour in a force 5 with the spinnaker up and my crew dangling  from the trapeze wire confirmed things - I was hooked!

Yacht racing was the next natural step; Cowes Week, Cork Week, Round the island, Match racing championships and RORC races along with local club racing became regular must do events. The camaraderie of being part of a team, all pulling together to get every possible ounce out of a boat was gripping.

When University came along I couldn't contemplate moving away from the sea, so off to Plymouth I went. There I found a vibrant local sailing scene, and bought myself a laser to join in. Along with the university's Fireflys, J-80s and a Beneteau 40.7, there was plenty to keep me busy. During this time I was asked to help deliver an 80 foot yacht from the Canaries to the Caribbean and leapt at the chance.

Post university I initially worked at the RNLI, and although I thoroughly enjoyed my time working for this deserving charity, the lure of combining my sailing brain and my working life could not be ignored. In 2012 I made the switch and joined the team at Kemp Sails. The move felt completely natural, and before I knew it I had learnt all processes of sail manufacture, blending my existing sailing knowledge with the team and helping to develop new designs for sails.

In recent years I have mostly been racing my GP14 dinghy, taking part in the competitive racing circuit and far and wide (including a trip to Barbados in 2016!!). Designing and building my own Kemp sails for the boat was an obvious choice, and one that has been deeply rewarding in my race results."


Tom Scott (Based Gosport)

"I joined Kemp Sails in September 2017 and look after the Gosport Loft with Torrie, who you will also meet if you are dropping off or collecting sails there.

The Gosport Loft takes care of the busy Solent inlet: racers, cruisers and adventurers, where Kemp Sails is relied on for making canvas work, maintenance of sails and canvas and supplying new sails.

I grew up on the East coast surrounded by water and a lot of mud. My dad decided I would learn to sail during a race week in an old wooden Mirror Dinghy with him. After losing my boots in knee deep mud and swimming around after a windy day, I decided on sticking to the family cruiser for many years, learning the ropes (also where the mud was regularly!) and enjoying weekend cruising. Eventually though, I decided I wanted the freedom of sailing my own boat and saved up to buy a Topper Dinghy, and I asked my parents to send me on an RYA level 1 Course. I then started racing, regionally at first, but quickly making friends on the circuit, then following them all over the country to race nationally.

When I was 14 I was selected for the RYA GBR National Squad and started racing internationally from Toppers through the Olympic Pathway classes of 29er, Laser Radial and into the men’s Laser Standard. I was in the RYA Pathway squads for 7 years, training with the Olympic team, learning what it takes to reach the top of "the most technical sport created". This meant I gained knowledge on how sails work and understanding of how to get the most out of a ‘one design’ sail.

During this time I studied at The University of Chichester and also became a coach to help fund my racing, but to also give back the great experience I had enjoyed through the program and my time learning to sail. I now coach the National Topper Squads in an intense program throughout the winter and travel with them to their main events in the summer to provide support."