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How Camper & Nicholsons shaped sailing races
Camper & Nicholsons
17th March 2022

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How Camper & Nicholsons shaped sailing races

With the arrival of the annual Saint Barth’s Bucket Regatta, this year held from Thursday 17th until Sunday 20th March, racing season is well and truly upon us.

Racing and regattas have long held a special place in the history and success of Camper & Nicholsons. While our first shipyard in Gosport began building and repairing small boats, the Camper & Nicholsons' name came to be known as a builder of fast yachts, particularly with the launch of our very first cutter, BREEZE, in 1836. This was the first known yacht by William Camper—the original Camper—and it went on to win the King’s Cup in 1936.

The King's Cup would eventually come to be known as "Charlie Nicholson's Regatta" after Charles E. Nicholson, the grandson of Camper's partner, Ben Nicholson, who cemented the company’s reputation in the racing world. The launch of his 15m Marconi-rigged ISTRIA in 1912 was a particularly significant development. She featured a number of firsts: the first Marconi topmast, the first dinghy cockpit, and the first to be built with laminated wood frames and planking to save on weight. These novel designs all contributed to her incredible racing performance, going on to dominate the America’s Cup throughout her career.

Charles’ contributions to the America’s Cup, and sailing in general, were notable, thanks to his fame and reputation as a remarkable yacht designer and his four challenger yachts, all of which have been described as ‘both innovative and brilliant.’ Upon his death in 1954, the editors of Yachting World magazine mourned his passing, calling him ‘the greatest yacht designer the world had ever known.’

But the ISTRIA wasn’t the only innovation by Charles. His 1913 Class-A schooner MARGHERITA won five out of six races in her first season, and was quoted by Charles’ son John as being “probably the fastest yacht ever built by my father in his long career.”

The development of the J-Class of yachts was also in large part thanks to Charles' novel designs. This class became not only symbols of speed and modernity, but romance and luxury. Fortunately, several of his original J-Classes still survive today: the ENDEAVOUR is one such example, as are SHAMROCK V, and VELSHEDA; the last three of the original fleet.

This year, VELSHEDA will be competing in the Saint Barth’s Bucket Regatta. The 38.5m sailing yacht, delivered in 1933, was an incredibly successful racing yacht. Her second season saw her win more than 40 races, achieving a remarkable record of success on the regatta circuit. She was, at the time of her delivery, one of the most technically advanced yachts in terms of, among other things, rigging and sails, and her award-winning legacy of racing continues today.

We wish the crew competing in this year’s regattas the best of luck. Fair winds and following seas!

If you wish to experience the thrilling atmosphere of a regatta or sailing event, contact us for more information on how to charter a crewed motor or sailing yacht anywhere on the globe, or view our sailing yachts for sale and charter.