The Kemp Team 'Biogs'

Having said that one of the best reasons to buy from Kemp Sails is the experience and the dedication of the team that we have, 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

(Based in Wareham) Rob Kemp

I started sailing when I was 4 sat in the bottom of a dinghy - and that’s a long time ago now! My first boat was a rather old Gull dinghy that my father had lying around in the garden, after some TLC this was traded in for a Mirror which I then learned how to race at our local club Poole YC.

Currently I'm sailing a Laser (that hurts rather alot) and I have a Sonata which we race as a family when time permits, plus crewing for a friend in an Osprey dinghy when I can.

Since my first boat, the aforementioned Mirror, I have pretty much sailed and raced anything that floats, and have raced 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 Jeanneau 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 Toppers and my daughter races Lasers.

Most weekends are now spent travelling to various events in and around the UK (the A34, the road to every where! - is a common route on a Friday night) and very soon parts of Europe too. If you see the Kemp truck or van at an event - do come and say Hi!

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 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 and Linda Kemp enjoying the Sun in Spain.David  Linda Kemp

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!

Matt Atkins - Director (based in Gosport)Matt

 When Started Sailing:      

Long ago dinghy sailing as a child on holiday in the Lake District and on the river where I grew up in East Anglia.  Then Club and Open meeting Dinghy racing and RYA Youth Training as a teenager, in Lasers and the National Youth Squad.  Subsequently I have sailed in and owned many different Dinghy classes over the years and also sailed in Sports boats and Yachts.

Currently Sailing: 

Local Club yacht racing in the Solent, mainly with friends, racing with the Mini Tonner Class which I revived in 2010 and cruising/day sailing with the family in my own Micro 18, based in Beaulieu. 

Sailing Comments:   

"I'm always keen to see and encourage the growth of 'entry level' and affordable sailing in the UK, to encourage participation in something which is a positive, healthy and really 'horizon broadening' pastime!"

About working for Kemp Sails:

I was working for Bainbridge International as their Export Sales Manager, having previously 'looked after' most of the UK sailmakers as my customers for several years as an Account Manager.  I found Sailmaking and the Sailmaking technology interesting, both in terms of the Hardware advances to make sailing easier and more efficient and also in terms of fabrics and Sailcloth development.  I was sailing with Rob (Kemp) in the regular Tuesday night Poole YC Sailing series when he asked me if I'd be interested to work for Kemp Sails as a General Manager.

I have found my experience seeing sails made in lofts all around the world to be very useful  - and it's amazing how many different approaches and philosophies there are.  Kemp Sails have been able to keep abreast of all the latest developments, materials and technologies in Sailmaking and Sailhandling and we have made a few notable developments ourselves!  

So, sailmaking has been a great experience for me and I enjoy the challenge of our business and the relationships that we have built with customers that we regularly see at boatshows and maintain happy relations with - the Kemp Sails stand is always a busy one!  I have found great satisfaction in developing our Shade Sails business and we have been involved in some really interesting and exciting Textile Engineering projects over the years - we have always applied the same ethos of designing in strength and durability - just like our Kemp Yacht Sails.

“I’m very patriotic and so I love the fact that Kemp Sails provides UK employment and is supporting the strong British manufacturing spirit. I also like the fact that my colleagues share my passion for providing products that we can be really proud of – it means I get to see plenty of happy customers!”