MBY looks back at the history of one of modern motorboating's key names
The news that Aquafibre Moulding had closed in May after 43 years in business may not have made national headlines, but the company played a key role in the development of modern leisure boating.
Aquafibre was started in 1965 at the outset of moulding in GRP and its success in doing so was hugely influential.
The firm went on to play a key role in development for Fairline and worked with some of the big names in modern motorboating, Broom and Princess among them.
Martin Broom, of Broom Boats, who was one of the founders of Aquafibre, said its closure had been on the cards for some time, and was little to do with the recession.
Martin joined forces with five other Norfolk marine businessmen – designer Rip Martins, Norfolk boat yard owner John Linford, Bobby Richardson of Richardson’s Pleasure Craft and Vic Bell of Bell Boats – to create a central company which could mould in GRP for the myriad hireboat companies on the Broads in the 1960s.
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The first Aquafibre hull was the Ocean 30, one of the most used moulds in motorboating history. It initially became the Broom 30 and Moonraker 30, before being used to create scores of other models up until the present day.
The second mould from Aquafibre became the much-loved Ocean 37 and Broom 37.
The firm grew rapidly, supplying specially designed inland hulls to nearly every hireboat outlet on the Broads over the 1970s and 1980s.
As that business began to decline, Aquafibre sold to the big charter fleets, with many hulls going to Ireland for Emerald Star and France for Crown Blue Line.
Meanwhile Aquafibre did all the development plugs and moulds for Fairline, an arrangement which carried on until recent years.
Aquafibre’s final 18 employees were made redundant when the doors closed in May but the moulding tools have been moved to Broom’s own site in Brundall, meaning Broom now does everything in-house.
Martin Broom, who since 1981 ran Aquafibre with Ian Mackintosh and then Ian’s son Ben, said: “The recession was not really to blame. We were sorry to let people go but we rationalised our family affairs in a more sensible way.
“We led the way in developing inland water hire cruisers. The sad thing is nearly all those boats were fitted out by Norfolk boat yards and it’s that that we’ve lost around here. It’s the end of an era as far as charter boat designs go.
“It never really advertised itself; Aquafibre was always a part of other products. It has gone full cycle. It is very sad but we’ve kept all the historical records so we can supply information to anyone with an Aquafibre hull.”
Top designer Andrew Wolstenholme said: “They were very much a key business in the development of modern motorboating.”