Yacht designer Tim Heywood

21 January 2015 • Written by Terence Disdale
Skilled in all aspects of yacht design, Tim Heywood challenges yards with his ideas but also keeps a roguish sense of humour in reserve to take the stress out of a project

Since yacht design is highly competitive, you could be forgiven for thinking that there might be some animosity between designers. But that notion is far from reality. I am blessed with being able to count on some of the world’s leading designers as close friends, among them Tim Heywood, with whom we have collaborated on various large motor yacht projects, including the award winners Pelorus, Ice and Kogo.

I first met Tim around 1972 when we were both under the wing of the late and great Jon Bannenberg. I had joined Jon in 1968 for a couple of years before going off to design a couple of hotels in South Africa and hitchhike around America for six months. On my return the Bannenberg office had expanded to include a few new faces, including the ever-smiling and joking Tim.

Unable to find a ‘proper job’ after completing his studies at the Central School of Art and Design, Tim worked on a building site until Bannenberg rescued him and offered him a place in his team. He also quickly invited me back to the team, and Tim and I became working buddies.

In this age of computer rendering it’s still a pleasure to look at some of Tim’s hand drawings

The early ’70s were very fashion-conscious, and as our studio was on the King’s Road we were exposed to all the latest clothing styles. I thought of Tim as a really snappy dresser and was envious of his automobile style: whereas I had a 1967 Beetle, he drove a slick Chevrolet Corvette. I was also impressed with his skills and patience in the office. I have always seen a technical drawing as a document to relay information and not necessarily as a work of art, but his technical drawings were another matter. In this age of computer rendering it’s still a pleasure to look at some of Tim’s hand drawings.

Tim moved up the Bannenberg ladder as I drifted away in 1973 to go it alone. His skills inspired Jon’s full confidence, and he was given responsibility for some of JB’s famous creations, including Siran.

When I first went on board that yacht I could not believe the degree of detail that had been carved out. It was as if the design brief had been: ‘OK. let’s spend as much money as we can on every square foot.’

Tim carried out all the incredible interior design drawings, and although today he shies away from interior work so that he can flex his superstructure styling skills, he is clearly a brilliant all-rounder.

Tim Heywood learnt his craft working under Jon Bannenberg, but couldn't find place in the firm after Bannenberg's death

In many ways we have similar tastes. We both have silver hair, E-type Jaguars and Aston Martins, and have owned Porsche 928s. This might add credence to the fact that we both prefer to design yachts with full-bodied curves.

The inspiration for Tim’s radical curved forms comes, I believe, from his love of the American customised car scene, which is full of amazing individual talent rarely recognised outside the US. He has a passion for cars that probably goes back to his schooldays – indeed, the schoolboy is still within him as he possesses an amazing Scalectrix car race track where he still plays with radio-controlled cars that even have headlamps.

As far as I know he is not a mad hobbyist (although he likes to ski), but that is hardly surprising bearing in mind his volume of work as a one-man band. I rest easy in knowing he is a bigger workaholic than me!

Tim and his lady love and business partner, Vanessa, have been together for nearly 20 years and are always ready for a good laugh even though they are thoroughly professional.

Creatively, Tim is afraid of nothing and will often conceptualise ideas that bewilder shipyards. Often these ideas are met with ‘we think that is a problem.’ Tim’s answer, like mine, which JB taught us, is always: ‘That’s not a problem – consider it a challenge.’

Tim is afraid of nothing and will often conceptualise ideas that bewilder shipyards

If I dare to venture into gossip, one of the best stories is of Tim and Andrew Winch being entertained by the owner’s wife on a JB project prior to the owner’s arrival. Declaring that dinner that night would be very informal, she asked them to freshen up in their cabins and return for the meal in their dressing gowns. Tim, fearing an orgy coming on, said to Andrew: ‘Should we keep our underpants on?’ The evening consisted of chicken and chips in a silver basket – no more!

Bannenberg liked a calm ambience in the studio and would always play classical music, but as soon as he left for a respite or meeting Tim would put on some serious R&B by George Benson. He possesses a wicked sense of humour which helps to take the stresses out of a project and keeps the team focused.

Bannenberg never really had a legacy that encouraged Tim to stay and be the JB figurehead, which disappointed him, especially after his many years of hard work. In 1996, he left to seek his fortune as a freelance designer, and clearly he has not looked back.

Originally published: Boat International Jubilee Special 2008.

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