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Princess Royal visits Ipswich yacht maker in countywide trip

PUBLISHED: 18:08 19 December 2017 | UPDATED: 23:09 19 December 2017

Spirit Yachts chief executive Sean McMillan takes the Princess Royal on a tour around the boatyard. Picture: MIKE BOWDEN

Spirit Yachts chief executive Sean McMillan takes the Princess Royal on a tour around the boatyard. Picture: MIKE BOWDEN

An Ipswich yacht building firm was among the groups and organisations to welcome The Princess Royal to its grounds today.

The Princess Royal meets members of the Spirit Yachts team including chief executive Sean McMillan and managing director Nigel Stuart . Picture: MIKE BOWDENThe Princess Royal meets members of the Spirit Yachts team including chief executive Sean McMillan and managing director Nigel Stuart . Picture: MIKE BOWDEN

A keen sailor, the Princess Royal met with dignitaries and team members at Spirit Yachts in Neptune Marina and had a tour of the workshop before tucking into a lunch of local produce provided by Truly Scrumptious and Suffolk Food Hall.

Chief executive at Spirit Yachts, Sean McMillan, said: “I have met Princess Anne twice before – the first time was when I was at school and I met her again when we won the Queen’s award for enterprise in 2008.

“We heard that she specifically asked to come and meet us after that meeting, which is very flattering.

“We are something of a well-kept secret here in Ipswich and it’s great to have the recognition – not so much for us but for all the staff that work here.

The Princess Royal is greeted by Spirit Yachts chief executive Sean McMillan after being introduced to Ipswich MP Sandy Martin, chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council Russell Williams, mayor of Ipswich councillor Sarah Barber and chief executive of Suffolk County Council Sue Cook. Picture: MIKE BOWDENThe Princess Royal is greeted by Spirit Yachts chief executive Sean McMillan after being introduced to Ipswich MP Sandy Martin, chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council Russell Williams, mayor of Ipswich councillor Sarah Barber and chief executive of Suffolk County Council Sue Cook. Picture: MIKE BOWDEN

“They are the real clever ones behind this business. They work so hard and have so much talent.

“The Princess is a very, very skilled sailor. She seemed impressed with what we were doing, enjoyed it and asked some very pertinent questions.”

The business has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1993, when Mr McMillan and his wife, Jenny Whitmarsh, started work from their coal shed - a site surely not equipped for building the pioneering 34m superyacht which will be rolled over in the new year.

Mrs Whitmarsh said: “We extended the shed but it reached a point where we couldn’t get it any bigger. We have been in this waterside premises since 2003 and are very happy here. It is such an honour to welcome the Princess Royal and because she is a sailor too, she knows what she’s looking at and how remarkable it is.”

Darren Gee, senior boat builder at Spirit Yachts, and chief executive Sean McMillan at Spirit Yachts with The Princess Royal on a tour of theboatyard. Picture: MIKE BOWDENDarren Gee, senior boat builder at Spirit Yachts, and chief executive Sean McMillan at Spirit Yachts with The Princess Royal on a tour of theboatyard. Picture: MIKE BOWDEN

Sandy Martin, Ipswich MP, said: “I think Spirit Yachts is a unique company building the most beautiful boats in the in the world. I’m immensely proud to be the MP for a town which has this business and wish them every success.”

Mayor Sarah Barber said: “It’s my first time meeting the Princess Royal and it was a great honour. My Mum will be so excited. I’m very impressed with the boats here and the craftsmanship that goes into making them. There are ships on the Ipswich crest so it makes me feel very proud that we are still linked to that heritage and that we’ve retained the industry here.”

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