THE man who founded Poole’s luxury boat company Sunseeker has been honoured with a lifetime achievement award.

Robert Braithwaite established Poole Power Boats with his brother John in 1969 and saw it grow into the current Sunseeker International.

He was honoured at the Boat Builder Awards, announced at the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam.

The lifetime achievement award, sponsored by Side-Power, recognises his outstanding contribution to the marine industry in establishing a world-renowned brand.

Accepting the trophy, Mr Braithwaite said: “It is a great honour to receive such an award. I have dedicated much of my life to this industry and have strived to make Sunseeker the world-renowned luxury brand that it is today.

“As Britain’s biggest boat builder, I am very proud of what Sunseeker International has become over the last 47 years; it is quite an achievement.

“We are continuing to grow worldwide thanks to our investment in new products, shipyard facilities and our people. It is exciting to see what the future will hold.”

Mr Braithwaite spent the 1960s working for Friar’s Cliff Marine, which sold various brands including small boats made by Owens Cruisers Inc in the US.

Friar’s Cliff Marine became Poole Powerboats when it moved to Poole in 1969, but Owens Cruisers decided to close down its UK operation – so Mr Braithwaite negotiated a deal to use the company’s boat moulds to produce Poole’s own powerboats.

He dreamt of building a new kind of boat, using revolutionary materials and technology, and his early designs were tailored to a handful of customers.

At the time, there were no significant builders of boats for the sports and leisure markets in the UK. The first yacht to launch was the Sovereign 17 in 1971 and the following year, the company was exhibiting at the Southampton Boat Show.

Today, Sunseeker – which was bought by China’s Dalian Wanda Group in 2013 – employs more than 2,100 people and is a major employer in Poole and Portland.

The Boat Builder Awards, organised jointly by IBI magazine and Metstrade, also saw Sunseeker collect a prize for its apprenticeship scheme. It was shortlisted for the Best Apprenticeship and Training Scheme title, recognising staff who give their time to develop apprentices across the business.