Long cabin Huntress 'Peri' is caught out in the Solent
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241 hulls built
The idea of the Fairey Huntress was the brainchild of Richard Fairey, son of Sir Richard and his former school friend, test pilot Bruce Campbell. They had become aware of the new "deep-V" hull designed by their friend, the eminent American naval architect Raymond C. Hunt, and agreed to build his 23 foot launch as a Fairey boat. So began the birth of the now classic Fairey Marine Motor Cruisers.
The first hulls were not very successful as they were totally open and also fitted with a heavy retractable centre-plate. These centre-plates had to be wound up and down by a thick cable and when the boat was at full speed, a plume of water rose up through the middle of the boat caused by the water pressure around this plate. Initially, Bruce Campbell had the sole concession rights to sell all the Fairey Marine powerboats, so off he went to the South of France on his yacht and took with him the four Ray Hunt designed boats. A month later he returned a disappointed man, as no one had wanted to buy an open 23 footer with a large centre plate to wind up and down. Bruce decided to sever his ties with Faireys and went off to redesign the 4 hulls, calling them Christinas. He also agreed to purchase further Hunt hulls from Faireys. Back at Fairey Marine, it was decided to produce their own 23' cabin boat, Alan Burnard was given the task of designing it, which then became known as the 'Huntress'.
The Huntress and the Huntsman 28's claim to fame were in the James Bond movie 'From Russia with Love'. This involved a total of 5 boats, 2 Huntsman 28's, 1 long cabin Huntress and 2 normal Huntresses. James Bond's boat was a Huntress fitted with a V8 Interceptor petrol engine along with "extra fuel" carried in the oil drums mounted in the cockpit. This oil drum arrangement had been made at the Hamble factory and was tested in Southampton Water to ensure the drums would roll off the transom without a hitch.
The 'chief baddies' boat was driven by former world airspeed record holder Peter Twiss ( 1,132 mph in 1956 in a Fairey Delta 2 aircraft). Also driving one of the boats was former Fairey Marine sales director Charles Currey. Apparently they had a wonderful time on location in Scotland and were well looked after by the film company. As regards the boats that caught fire, these boats were all wooden mock-ups and were set fire to in Pinewood Studios.
Of the first 29 hulls made, 1-8, 10-15, 19-22 and 29 all went to Bruce Campbell for his Christina production. Sir Max Aitken had 2 Huntresses; Donald Gomme of G Plan furniture also owned one along with bandleader Billy Cotton, who had bought Sir Max's first boat. Richard Fairey entered his Huntress in the 1960 Miami - Nassau race but this blew up and sank, the crew escaping unharmed.
Around 88 hulls were sent to Dell Quay. The 25' and 27' hulls were fitted out by them as the very successful Dell Quay Rangers. Many are still around today and we are pleased to have some in the club along with a few Christinas.
Around 20 Huntress and Christinas competed in and won awards in various Cowes - Torquay powerboat races over the years often winning the 'production boat', the 'lowest powered finisher' and the 'fuel economy' awards. A total of 9 Huntress/Christinas competed in the 1962 Cowes-Torquay race out of a fleet of 47 boats! 11 boats competed in the 1963 race. Peter Twiss, Charles Currey and Alan Burnard all competed in these early races driving Huntresses.
10 boats were sold as complete boats to the Saudi Arabian Coast Guard but suffered quite badly from accidents and collisions with submerged objects (reefs)!
Numerous hulls were supplied to Finland but little is known about them.
23 boats went to the MoD / Admiralty for use as Captain's motor boats on County class destroyers, Aircraft Carriers, Assault ships and other harbour duties. They seem to have been used more as water ski boats for the ship's crew when the destroyers were abroad. They were also fitted to Iranian and Libyan frigates.
One customer purchased 4 boats at the 1960 London Boat Show provided that they would have to carry a ½ ton payload and pass a noise test! To judge this the customer stood on the banks of the River Hamble as the boats went by. After successful trials these boats were then shipped to Algeria for an undisclosed use but it is thought it was for gold smuggling operations down the River Congo!
One of our club members purchased his boat (hull No. 132) from new in October 1964. His prized possession is still going strong, in pristine condition and still complete with the original twin Jaguar 3.4 petrol engines and gearboxes which he had specially built.
The Huntress was made on the hot moulded system of laminations (veneers) of 2.5mm agba ( a type of mahogany ). In the case of the Huntress six laminations were used on the bottom and five on the topsides. Laminations were continuous from keel to gunwale so that there were no weak joints. To hot mould the hull, veneers were first stapled individually to a mould of the hull; subsequent skins (veneers) were glued and applied, staples in the underskin being removed as the work proceeded. The mould itself was mounted on a metal plate carried on a trolley moving along a rail track. A thick rubber bag was placed over the assembled boat, a vacuum applied until the rubber bag was stretched skin tight over the outer surface, then the trolley was wheeled into an autoclave (oven) where steam raised the temperature to 100deg.C. The resultant pressure on the veneers ensured good contact while the shell was baked for around 30 minutes. Taken out of the Autoclave, the hull was removed from the mould and left to cure for one week. Dinghies like the Albacore, Firefly, Falcon and Duckling would have been in the autoclave for around 20 minutes.
Price for a factory completed boat in 1961 was £3,965 inc. 215hp petrol V8 (in 1969 £6,900). The first hull was produced for Bruce Campbell in March 1958.