Camper & Nicholsons 42 Endeavour
Exclusive: Camper & Nicholsons 42 Endeavour
A vaunted English yard with a 220-year history launches an up-to-the-minute express yacht.
If a magazine is only as good as its current issue, then maybe a boatbuilder should only be judged by its latest launch. And if that’s true, Camper & Nicholsons (C&N) looks to be in pretty fair shape. The world-famous yacht builder (not to be confused with the yacht brokerage firm of the same name), tucked into a corner of Portsmouth harbor on England’s south coast, is emerging from a painful period of changes in ownership, loss of focus, and plummeting profitability, which even its own public-relations department describes as “the wilderness years.” But a combination of new ownership, new management, and new ideas seems to have set the yard on the steadiest course it has enjoyed for a long time.
There isn’t much that C&N hasn’t turned its hand to over the centuries—it’s been in business since 1782—but a 42-foot express definitely takes the company into new markets, even for them. The Endeavour takes its name from one of this illustrious boatyard’s most famous yachts, a 130-foot J-Class racing sailboat from the 1930’s, which underlines the new management’s understanding that the trump card in C&N’s deck is its heritage. The recent boom in retro-revival craft led by companies like Hinckley and Riva showed the way, and for this new venture, the Italian-owned British yard went to a design house for whom such retro looks are second nature: C. Raymond Hunt & Associates.
It was an astute choice. The resonance of the Hunt name in modern powerboating is a perfect match for the rich associations conjured by C&N, and the two companies have strong, though well-hidden, historical links. The original Endeavours, I and II, were built between the wars for Sir Thomas Sopwith. His challenges for the America’s Cup are generally reckoned to have been the best of their day, but there was another eminent boating trophy for which Sopwith competed, with more success, in his youth: the Harmsworth, contests for unlimited hydroplanes—the Miss Budweisers of their time. In the pre-Gar Wood days before World War I, the young gentleman daredevil—taking a break from flying competitions and his aviation company that produced the famous Sopwith camel—twice won the Harmsworth Trophy for Britain at the helm of the fire-breathing, 55-knot, stepped hydroplane Maple Leaf IV.
Nearly 40 years later, Sopwith’s son Tommy took up powerboat racing himself. By then, the new sport of offshore powerboat racing had come to Europe, after the newspaperman Max Aitken saw the 1960 Miami-Nassau race from his villa in the Bahamas. That was the famous rough-weather contest won by Richard Bertram’s 31-foot Moppie, with Jim Wynne’s 23-foot stern-driven Aqua Hunter second. Both boats, of course, were pioneering deep-Vs designed by Ray Hunt. The following summer, young Tommy won Aitken’s very first Cowes-Torquay race in his 25-foot Thunderbolt, another Ray Hunt design.
Now, after another 40 years, the knot is finally tied. C&N’s Hunt hull is a constant-deadrise, 25-degree, deep-V inboard with a heritage that stretches back in an unbroken line to those world-beating raceboats of the 1960’s. The external styling is rather more contemporary than the innocent looks of those early Hunt designs, of course, but below she’s simplicity itself. The overall scheme—white-painted obeche tongue-and-groove paneling contrasting with mahogany-face ply bulkheads—is not some retro fiberglass homage to the traditional Downeast look, but the genuine article. The layout is equally simple: a V-berth in the forward cabin, complete with traditional infill to make it into a double; a symmetrical saloon, like a sailboat’s, with sofas facing each other across a central folding table; an L-shape galley tucked in beside the companionway on the starboard side; and the head to port.
This article originally appeared in the September 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.