In his monthly MBY column, Nick Burnham reveals the five boats that made him fall in love with yachting…
I’ve been following Jeremy Clarkson since his journalistic career began in the 1980s with a column in Performance Car magazine.
I can still remember his hilarious account of wiring a ‘Revenger’ (a stress-relieving box you stuck to your car’s dashboard that made machine gun or bomb noises when you stabbed the buttons) to a loudspeaker behind the grille of his Honda CRX.
Indeed, his unique prose inspired me to take up writing. I have a book he wrote in 1997 called Hot 100: Cars That Make You Go Phwoar.
Rather than just being about the best or fastest, it highlighted the most iconic. Amongst the Bentleys and Lamborghinis are a Matra Murena, a Peugeot 504 Estate and a Monteverdi.
And it made me wonder which boats I’d include in a similar top 100. Unlike Clarkson, my lucrative book deal has yet to materialise, so in the meantime here’s my top five most iconic boats of all time…
Fletcher 147 GTO
As cheap as a Ford Escort and you could even tow it behind one. There was space for four in back-to-back seats, and it was fast, fun and able to tow a water skier.
But what really stood out about this sub-15ft sportsboat was its amazing seakeeping – it handled the chop better than many boats twice its size.
Today small sport utility boats like Axopars are common. Back in the 1980s if you wanted a small fast boat you basically bought a speedboat or a dory.
The Aquajeep 430 was arguably the first to try and bridge the divide with a fast yet practical boat.
It had a catamaran-style hull, a flat front, stubby foredeck and was finished in lurid colours such as yellow and bright red.
The result was masses of space, offering both sport and utility.
Sunseeker Tomahawk 37
Designed by Don Shead, it had a phenomenal hull based on a race boat and 50-knot performance, provided you specced Mercruiser 502 Magnum 420hp petrol engines.
But the real reason this boat makes the cut is for its looks – pure, purposeful and absolutely beautiful, it hails from a time when Sunseeker played Porsche to Princess’s BMW and Fairline’s Mercedes.
It looked stunning when it launched in 1982 and it handled brilliantly! A pair of shaft-drive diesel engines of 255hp apiece gave the boat 26 knots.
Later bigger-engined versions reached mid 30 knots! It was the first boat designed specifically for Princess Yachts by Bernard Olesinski and the largest private GRP leisure boat built in the UK at the time.
David King, founder of Princess Yachts, said at the time that he couldn’t imagine the company ever making anything bigger…
Back in the 1970s, Avon Inflatables tried adding a deep-vee fibreglass hull to the bottom of its 4m model.
Called the Searider, it had back-to-back or bucket seats like a speedboat and could handle 50hp.
As well as proving to be an excellent leisure boat concept, professional organisations such as H.M. Coastguard quickly adopted this strange new hybrid, and just like that, the RIB was born.
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