Clive Humphris, ILCA Chief Technical Officer of 14 Years

By Clive Humphris

I was born in the UK and studied engineering at Coventry University. In 1974, my wife and I emigrated to Australia, where we raised our four children. I had an over 30-year career in the automotive industry, leading various engineering teams involved in computer simulation, design/testing of engines, aerodynamics, body structures, and vehicle refinement. In my spare time, I was sailing dinghies and competing as part of an engineering team racing Solar Racing cars. I bought my first second-hand ILCA in the late ’80s and have been hooked by the class ever since.

I joined ILCA in 2008 as Chief Technical Officer after being interviewed by Tracy Usher, Heini Wellmann, and Jeff Martin at the Sydney 2008 ILCA Masters Worlds. At that time, there were five builders, two sail lofts, and two foil suppliers. During my tenure as Chief Technical Officer, I played a key role in the development of major changes within ILCA, including the ILCA 7 MKII sail, the composite top mast, the improved hull laminate, and the ILCA 6 lower mast. 

In 2019, the class found it necessary to transition to a new trademark model to comply with European Union competition law and the World Sailing FRAND policy, and to retain the selection of our boat for the Olympics. I resolved to help lead the team through the process of approving new builders. We received over 50 applications from potential builders, which were evaluated by a builder selection panel. The result is that by the end of this year, we should have 10 builders in total, with an increased worldwide spread. 

The builder selection and approval process was thorough, and involved me and the growing Technical team in an extraordinary amount of cooperative work with the new builders. The approval program consisted of the supply, manufacture, and commissioning of new tooling. This tooling and the associated processes were validated with a pre-production set of 10 boats for each applicant builder  to demonstrate compliance with the quality standards within the build manual. During the pre-production run, over 130 parameters were monitored to demonstrate capability. Once the Technical team was satisfied that all requirements were met, a recommendation report to approve was forwarded to both the ILCA World Council and World Sailing for ratification.

With the expanded builder base, we have increased the size of the Technical team to respond to the increasing approval and audit requirements. Starting from 2020, we have been fortunate to progressively hire a talented team including Santiago Sampaio in 2020, Louis Moysan in 2021, and Margarida Lopes and Andrew Holdsworth in 2022. Ravi Subramaniam, a longer-term contractor in the Austin office, has also been able to progressively contribute more time to the team.  

Last year I made the decision to step back from the full Chief Technical Officer position so I could focus on more time with my family and personal interests. We advertised the position and received many capable applications. Chris Tunstall was selected as the best candidate, with over four decades of experience building our boat and many other small boats. He started tapering into the role in October 2022 and has now fully taken on the Chief Technical Officer role. I remain on the team in an advisory role at far reduced hours.

The success of the class has always been built on the high level of cooperation between ILCA, the builders, and the sailing authorities. ILCA’s work from the technical perspective is to ensure that builders are building according to the build manual, to encourage a continual stream of quality improvement changes, and to update the manual to record all agreed changes. On average, there have been 10 build manual changes per year to improve quality and value. While build manual changes are encouraged to improve the value of the boat to our members, ILCA will always ensure that the basic character of the boat is maintained – it is almost unique that, at least at entry-level club racing, a boat that is several decades old can successfully compete against a new boat in the right hands.