Stan LeNepveu, one of the founders of sailing hardware company Ronstan, died on Friday at the age of 89. Stan was the “stan” in Ronstan, which he co-founded with Ron Allatt in 1953.
Allatt and LeNepveu sold Ronstan to ARC (Australian Reinforced Concrete) Industries in 1977 and LeNepveu retired six months later. Allatt stayed on as general manager for another five years before retiring.
According to Bryn Wellington, sales and marketing manager for Ronstan, LeNepveu was a great man, “straight forward and gruff, but lovable”. Wellington said that the Ronstan business, Mallacoota and the Black Rock Yacht Club were Stan’s life.
“He was enormously proud of Ronstan, which has become household name to just about all sailors in our country,” Wellington said.
A funeral service was held at 2pm on June 27, followed by a wake at the Black Rock Yacht Club.
Sport Phillip Marine tells the story of how an accidental broach led to the founding of the business that is now a major international force:
One of the giants on the world stage in marine fittings is Australian company Ronstan. The genesis of the company dates back to an event that happened nearly 60 years ago when a spectacular broach cost the race leader the 12 Square Metre 1951 Victorian Championships.
Lindsay Gardiner was leading when he rounded the final windward mark and set the spinnaker. There was a sudden bang as the bronze rudder pintles snapped, the boat broached, quickly filled with water then over turned. Lindsay had the indignity of watching from the water as the rest of the fleet sailed past him.
It was one of those grey Melbourne days with a freezing wind howling in from the west. A dispirited Lindsay was towed back to shore. He was cold, dripping and very ‘cheesed’ off.
Stan LeNepveu was on the beach watching the race, taking one look at Lindsay’s mournful countenance he offered to help. ‘I’ll make you some stainless steel pintles’ he said, ‘they won’t crystallise and snap like bronze.’
Stan was a toolmaker and a member of the Black Rock Yacht Club. A keen sailor, he would make stainless steel fittings for other club members and these included a boat builder called Ron Allatt.
Ron had used his good mate Stan’s garage to build a 20-foot clinker style fishing vessel for Ron’s father. This project went so well that as a hobby, they started building boats together and fitting them out with the stainless steel fittings.
Both men raced competitively at a State and National Championship level and before long, other sailors started to notice the quality of the boats they were building and racing and winning. Defeat makes sailors very observant; when you get beaten by another boat, you always notice exactly what sort of advantages it has.
The hobby started to become a serious commercial venture and in 1951 they made the formal decision to go into business together. They purchased a block of land at Highett for 450 pounds and set about constructing a boat building factory.