A member of the Colman's mustard dynasty, Sir Tim Colman held the World Speed Sailing Record for many years with his Crossbow proa designs. Barry Pickthall remembers him.

Sir Tim Colman, the first man to break the 30 knot speed sailing barrier with his Crossbow proa/catamarans, died on 9 September, aged 91.

Born and bred in Norfolk, a member of the Colman’s mustard dynasty, Tim learned to sail on the Broads at a very young age and never lost a love for his county nor zest for speed on the water, and dominated the world sailing speed record charts for more than a decade.

When the Royal Yachting Association floated the idea of an organised speed week held over a 500m course in the sheltered waters of Portland Harbour in 1971, Colman commissioned Tornado catamaran designer Rod Macalpine-Downie to produce something special.

As the records were measured in one direction only, he came up with a 60ft proa having a 31ft 6in span supporting a small pod in which the crew were situated to windward.

On October 6, 1972 Crossbow set the benchmark record of 26.3 knots in just 19 knots of wind.

Breaking the 30-knot barrier

The team returned in 1973 and raised the bar to 29.3 knots before finally breaking through the 30 knot barrier with a speed of 31.1 knots in 1975.

Two years later, Colman returned with Crossbow II, a larger Macalpine-Downie designed catamaran with identical rigs in each hull and set a marginally better record of 31.8knots.

In 1977 she raised the bar to 33.8 knots, then 34.4 knots. In 1978 Colman announced his retirement from record breaking, but in 1980 the crew reunited for one more attempt, and in a force 8 gale, Crossbow II reached 36 knots (41mph) – a record they retained for 6 years until beaten by Frenchman Pascal Maka on a sailboard.

The current record now stands at 65.45knots set by Paul Larsen in Walvis Bay, Namibia in 2012, aboard the proa Vestas Sailrocket 2.