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Following the second world war the great Fairey Aviation company had spare capacity at its works at Hamble Point near Southampton and decided to build sailing dinghies. Fairey Aviation was founded by Charles Richard Fairey, later Sir Richard, who in 1915 left his job at aircraft builder Shorts intending to join the Royal Naval Air Service, but was told that he would be of greater use building more aircraft. So he opened a factory at Hayes and the Admiralty handed over the site at Hamble Point to him, for the assembly and testing of seaplanes. This works produced aircraft and aircraft components until the 1950s, but the spare capacity immediately after the war was taken up by building sailing dinghies, following the setting up of Fairey Marine in 1946.

The dinghies, designed by Uffa Fox, were built with Fairey’s hot moulding process, in which the boat’s hull was a single piece of plywood, formed to the finished shape of the boat. Several layers of timber strips were glued and laid up over a solid buck, and were then baked in an autoclave. The 12 foot Firefly was used for the 1948 Olympics, and was followed over the next twenty years by the Albacore, Duckling, Finn, Firefly, 5-0-5, Flying Dutchman, Falcon, Fulmar, Jollyboat and International 14, all under the direction of Charles Currey. Their hulls were renowned for their longevity, resistance to rot, light weight and elegance. There was also the 26 foot Atalanta sailing cruiser. By 1958 Fairey claimed that it was producing 1,000 boats a year and was ‘the largest boatbuilder in the world, outside America’.

However, Sir Richard died in 1956, and in 1960 Fairey Aviation was merged with Westland, leaving several other companies which included Fairey Marine. In 1957, Sir Richard’s son Dick Fairey (who died in 1960) with his former school chum Bruce Campbell, introduced a 23 foot motorboat designed by the American Ray Hunt. Development of fast motor boats, which use their power to lift themselves out of the water rather than pushing themselves through it, had progressed from 1900, but Ray Hunt had evolved a new hull shape for that would help it to maintain speed in rough seas. Traditional planing hulls were flattened out at the stern to maximise speed, but were very uncomfortable in the rough, when they jumped from wave to wave and landed heavily. Ray Hunt formed the bottom into a constant deep-V shape - at an angle of 24 degrees from the keel - which provided a softer landing and better directional stability which together allowed the boat to maintain its speed.

Bruce Campbell was given sole rights to sell the motorboats, helping Fairey’s naval architect, Alan Burnard, with development. the boats. But the first Hunt boats did not sell and Bruce decided he could do better alone. He rented a yard at Badnam Creek upriver of Hamble village and bought the first boats from Fairey to which he added luxurious, but cramped, cabins and called them Christinas.

However in 1959, Max Aitken, chairman of Express Newspapers, ordered a Hunt boat direct from Fairey, and persuaded friends to buy them too. He suggested the class name Huntress, which Fairey adopted. In 1960 Alan Burnard developed the Hunt hull into the Huntsman 28 with twin diesel engines. Bruce Campbell completed nineteen Fairey hulled Christinas but then adopted a similar but larger Hunt hull for his Christina 25s. And so Fairey and Campbell became friendly rivals. The hull was also used for many one-off boats and by Dell Quay for 88 Rangers.

Air speed record breaker Peter Twiss had joined Fairey Marine in 1960 and Sir Max Aitken started the annual Offshore Powerboat Race from Cowes to Torquay in August 1961 to “improve the breed”. The first race was won by Tommy Sopwith in Thunderbolt, a Bruce Campbell Christina 25, and Diesel Huntsman was third driven by Charles Currey. Peter Twiss on Huntsman No.8 retired, but five of the nine finishers had Hunt derived hulls. Between 1961 and 1973 Fairey Marine production cruisers won a total of 202 awards in powerboat races, including 54 awards in 1969, when changes to the rules favoured purpose built raceboats, not family cruisers with comfortable accommodation for everyday use. Public awareness was reinforced when the James Bond movie From Russia with Love opened in 1963, and five Faireys starred in the concluding dramatic chase scenes.

The elegant Huntsman 28 is Fairey’s most iconic powerboat, and in 1963 it was followed by the larger and more spacious twin diesel Swordsman 33, especially with the option of an aft cabin. An updated Huntsman, the 31, was finally built in 1967, and was also available with an aft cabin. There were also a few variations on the wooden boats, all designed by Alan Burnard. In all, about 450 hot moulded Fairey powerboats were produced, and a large number were exported.

For economy, glass fibre construction was used for the 1969 Spearfish 30, based on the aft cockpit Huntsman 31. The final leisure boat was the glass fibre Fantôme 32, with an aft cabin. About 150 glass fibre cruisers were built, but the new 25% VAT caused Fairey to concentrate on military customers. The Hamble Point site was extended into the river, and a marina built. Fairey Marine left Hamble Point in 1983, but the site, now owned by MDL, remains a centre of boat building and repair.

In addition to the Christinas and Rangers, other boats are related to the Faireys. In 1989 Alan Burnard designed the elegant Supermarine Swordfish 36, followed in 2000 by the Swordsman 37 and 40 based on the military Fairey Dagger hull he designed in the 1970s, the Swordsman 30 developed from the Fairey Spearfish and finally the Solent Spear, an update on the original concept.