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240 years of Camper & Nicholsons
24th March 2023
Camper & Nicholsons was founded between American Independence and the French Revolution. It has thrived for 240 years because no other company pioneered so many yachting firsts.

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240 years of Camper & Nicholsons

Camper & Nicholsons was founded between American Independence and the French Revolution. It has thrived for 240 years because no other company pioneered so many yachting firsts. In 1848 they built the first private yacht to circumnavigate the globe, when their schooner Nancy Dawson searched for the lost explorer John Franklin in the frozen Northwest Passage. Another fine exemplar is Amphitrite. Launched by Ben Nicholson in 1887, she was owned by a Scottish aristocrat, then a Swedish industrialist, then a German production company, where the yacht starred in 40 TV shows. Aged 136, she is probably the oldest working yacht on earth.

An ‘s’ was added to Camper & Nicholsons when Charles E Nicholson joined the shipyard. His 1912 launch of Istria showed Charles building and designing at his inventive, game-changing best. Istria carried a sea of sails, on top of a pistol-shaped hull, which tore at the fabric of yacht design. She won 72 trophies from 81 starts.

The 20th century yachts of Charles E Nicholson, including Endeavour and Shamrock VI, came within a hair’s breadth of lifting the America’s Cup. His launches like Creole, one of the most photographed yachts of all time and still the world’s largest wooden sailing yacht, changed naval architecture forever. Camper & Nicholsons even pioneered flying boats and ocean-going diesel-engined yachts.

The company is so fascinating because their history tells the story of yachting itself. In 1940, the clouds of war descended on the Camper & Nicholsons shipyard and design studio on England’s south coast. Fortunately the company had already developed the largest luxury motor yachts, which made their launches like Evadne and Philante among the most versatile vessels in the world. These very yachts rescued Allied soldiers from Dunkirk. They ferried vital supplies to the resistance. Philante herself oversaw the surrender of 33 U-boats, and she survived to become the Norwegian royal yacht Norge (Nor-Ga) - which still cruises today. Indeed the marque became a royal preserve.

Over a century ago Albert the First, Prince of Monaco, converted the Camper & Nicholsons yacht Hirondelle, into a floating ocean laboratory, while his grandson Rainier the Third, honeymooned on Deo Juvante Two. King Charles III learnt to sail on the Camper & Nicholsons yacht Bloodhound. Such is the legacy of the brand. After the Second World War, Camper & Nicholsons reinvented their industry once again. This time with a plastic fantastic new material called GRP, or fibreglass. GRP could mould unsinkable production yachts like the Nic 32: a boat that could win regattas, circumnavigate or simply introduce yachting to a baby-booming generation of global owners.

In the 1960s, George Nicholson opened the first ever international yachting bureau in Cannes, followed by London, New York and Monaco. George sealed, on a handshake, orders for million dollar yachts to be built at shipyards across Europe. The Nicholsons gave Jon Bannenberg and Espen Oeino their first yacht commissions for Tiawana and Eco. The great yacht builder and designer had become the great yacht broker. With 11 international offices, the most trusted name in yachting became a market leader in sales, charter, yacht management, project management, refit, insurance and new build. In 2016 the Lai Sun Group brought into their pioneering longevity. They invested in new offices in Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore, as well as the industry’s first dedicated tech hub: investments that will bear fruit in decades to come.

As 240 Years of Camper & Nicholsons proves, this is the company’s DNA: