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Camper & Nicholsons Archive
October 2022 Newsletter

Majestic Motoryachts

Between the two world wars Charles and Arthur Nicholson built the most comprehensive gamma of yachts the world had ever seen. We have already covered the legendary J-Class racing yachts for the America’s Cup (in Newsletter N°8) and the breathtaking three-masted schooners Aileè, Sonia II and Vira (N°10). But between 1922 and 1937 the leading yacht builders of the world also launched some of the greatest and elegant motoryachts ever seen. Several have survived and after incredibly refined restorations are sailing the world’s oceans. Among them are Sona of 554 tons; Crusader, 545 tons; Vita, 502 tons; Evadne, 581 tons; Malahne, 458 tons and Philante of 629 tons.
Each yacht was built to suit her owner and no effort was spared to ensure that his desires were carried out. Some, due to their exceptional size for the period, were built under C&N management in the large and well-organized yard of Frederick Blake, Ian McDonald and Harry White in Northam.
In those days motoryacht design generally featured straight stems or clipper bows and counter sterns, with Sona being the last motoryacht with these characteristics. The subsequent drawings of Charles E. Nicholson generally had a ram bow and a cruiser type stern.
Raised topsides also became the norm for the yachts of the interwar period. Perfect symmetry, proportion and perfection in the lines of these gigantic hulls assured magnificent results.
Let’s review some of the designs in this newsletter.

SONA, YN 307

This yacht was designed by Charles E. Nicholson and built in our Southampton yard in 1922 for The Earl of Dunraven K.P.
She was designed as a twin screw motor yacht and was all steel built to comply with Lloyd’s + 100 A 1 + L.M.C. She was launched in 1922 on Saturday, June 10th, and ran trials on the 19th of July.
She was taken over by the Admiralty during the war and used for anti-submarine duties before becoming an accommodation ship in Poole Harbour where regrettably she was bombed in 1942, breaking her back.
Length Overall                                            188’ 10”
Length Between Perpendiculars                170’ 0”
Length Waterline                                        169’ 1/2”
Beam                                                          27’ 0”
Draft Aft 1/2 Load                                       12’ 4 1/2”
Displacement 1/2 Load                              588 tons
Thames Measurement                               555 tons


Crusader was designed by C.E. Nicholson and built in our Southampton yard in 1927 for Mr. A. Kingsley Macomber. (We were to build a larger Crusader for Mr.
Macomber in 1929 with YN 361.)
The first Crusader was built as an all steel twin screw diesel yacht to comply with Lloyd’s + 100 A1 L.M.C. requirements. She was launched on the 20th of January, 1927. When she was requisitioned by the Admiralty for the war she was fitted with a 4” gun and served as an anti-submarine escort vessel in the Irish Sea before becoming a training vessel in Campbeltown.
She was cruising in the Mediterranean in 1951.
It appears that she had her name changed in Achimoto and underwent a considerable refit from March to November in 1964.
Length Overall                                                173.6’
Length Between Perpendiculars                    163.25’
Length Waterline                                            160.0’
Beam                                                              27.5’
Depth                                                              16.0’
Draft Aft (Half Load)                                        11.3’
Displacement (Half Load)                               564 tons
Displacement (Full Load)                               634 tons
Thames Measurement                                   546 tons
Official Number                                              149338
Machinery                                                      Handed pair of Sulzer
                                                                       4 cylinder diesels 400 H.P.
                                                                       at 200 r.p.m.
The following is an extract from John Nicholson’s book “Great Years of Yachting”:

VITA, YN 360

Vita was designed by Charles E. Nicholson and built in our Gosport yard in 1929 for
T.O.M. Sopwith C.B.E. She was designed as a twin screw motor yacht and built of riveted steel to comply with Lloyd’s + 100 A1 + LMC requirements. (We had, in 1926, built a slightly smaller motor yacht, our Yard No 337 also named Vita, for the same owner.)
In 1934 Mr Sopwith used YN 360 Vita to tow Endeavour across the Atlantic for the America’s Cup races. In 1937 he chartered her from his friend and business partner Fred Sigrist to tow Endeavour across again as a trial horse for tuning up Endeavour
II. While towing her back they became separated and despite a search, she could not be found but Endeavour was sailed safely home.
In 1934 Mr Sopwith bought his third Vita, ex-Argosy, a 753 ton motor yacht built by Krupp in 1931, which he sold in 1936 before building the 1629 ton Philante at Camper & Nicholsons in 1937.
In 1939 Viva II was requisitioned by H.M. Government for war service and later was sunk off the North Devon coast in May 1941 by enemy aircraft fire. She was found by Chis Lowe of Atlantic Diving in Newquay in 2002 who recovered her builders plate.
Length Overall                                                 178.5’
Length Between Perpendiculars                     165.5’
Length Waterline                                             163.8’
Beam                                                               26.0’
Draught                                                           11.87’
Thames Measurement                                    502 tons
Official Number                                               160907
Signal Flags                                                    L D C G
Machinery                                                       Two Mach. Augsburg
                                                                        8 cylinder diesels 287 NHP
1929 - 1934      VITA              T.O.M. Sopwith C.B.E. / Portsmouth
1934 - 1938      VIVA II           Fred Sigrist / Portsmouth
1939 - 1939      VIVA II           Sir Edward M. Mountain Bart., J.P. / Portsmouth
1939 - 1941      VIVA II           H.M. Government
The third Vita of T.O.M. Sopwith, the aforementioned ex-Argosy, whose hull was in poor condition, was recently sold at auction. We ignore her destiny.
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