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Where Are You Now?

Leonardo Sayago

Leonardo da Costa Sayago

BSc Naval Architecture 1967

It was more than 50 years ago that Leonardo Sayago came to the UK from his native Portugal to complete a Naval Architecture degree at the then Sunderland Technical College. Leonardo was part of the first cohort of students who studied at the recently opened new complex of buildings on Chester Road by His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in 1964.

Following his passion for boats – having designed his first boat when he was only 14 years old – Leonardo decided to come to Sunderland as he was aware of the City’s shipbuilding tradition.

He said: “I was aware of the great shipbuilding tradition of Sunderland. I was most impressed by Dr Lynch in my interview for a place in the course and all the staff were not only super professional, but gave us great tuition and also most kind and friendly treatment. I was very lucky to come to Sunderland, could have not chosen a better place to study and have always felt very grateful to my University.”

Leonardo specialised in yacht design and started working for Campers & Nicholson in Southampton in 1967. A few years later he decided to take the plunge and set up his own design business, Power Boats and Sailing Boats. The company designed, built and marketed yachts and light aircraft.

He said: “One of my biggest challenges was leaving a safe and well paid job in 1969 after working for only three years and setting up on my own into a very difficult area of yacht design.”

Many thousands of yachts and powerboats were built to Leonardo’s designs, such as the Sailfish 18, OS 19, Sandpiper 565, Miss Enfield, Crusader, Sealord 15 & 25 and Caravela 22 & 25.

He explained: “The fast boats I did were much faster than the opposition, they beat the others so convincingly that I even had the Italian Team, the strongest in those days, to order a design from me to discover the secrets of our machines.”

From his headquarters in Hamble, the Sunderland graduate distributed yachts such as Beneteau, Feeling, GibSea, Sweden Yachts and Nauticat. He became a pilot in 1981 and also became involved with the marketing of Robin, Mooney and Maule aircraft.

His biggest achievement, he explains, was the design of Miss Enfield, winner of the Cowes-Torquay race in 1969.

“It was the fastest Class 1 Powerboat in the World (thanks to a novel design approach in aluminium with aircraft technology),” he explained. “In 1970 the Avenger Too was winner of the Round Britain Powerboat Race using that same technology.”

His advice to recent graduates entering the job market is to choose a job they really love.

“Money is important but above all do a job that you really enjoy. You will do well if you love what you do,” he added.

In 1993 Leonardo retired to his home country, Portugal and managed to stay retired for two whole weeks. Retirement was really not for him, so he started to look for a farm to create his old dream of starting both a Pilots’ Village and an aviation company to import some super small planes from Central Europe such as the Eurostar, SportCruiser and the Eurofox.

He concluded: “Having just turned 74 years old, my future plan is to stay healthy, travel and return to Sunderland to see how the city has changed in the last 50 years.”

Leonardo Sayago

White Bird - designed when he was 14 years old. 

Leonardo Sayago - Miss Enfield

Miss Enfield, Cowes- Torquay champion in 1969.

Leonardo Sayago - Crusader Prototype

Crusader Prototype.

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