World’s coolest boats: Fairey Huntsman is the ultimate James Bond boat

Each month we pick out an iconic boat that can lay claim to the title of world’s coolest boat. This month, we take a closer look at the Fairey Huntsman.

Say “classic car” and 90 per cent of car enthusiasts will immediately think of a Jaguar E Type. Say “classic boat” to a powerboat fan and nine times out of 10, the Fairey Huntsman will spring to mind. It really is that iconic a vessel.

The story begins back in the 1940s. With World War Two drawing to a close, aircraft manufacturer the Fairey Aviation Company Ltd was looking to diversify.

Founder Charles Richard Fairey (later Sir Richard Fairey) was a keen sailor, as was managing director Chichester-Smith, who also happened to be a good friend of Olympic yachtsman Charles Currey.

So it wasn’t a huge stretch of their collective imagination to take some of the techniques used in aviation at the time, such as the then-revolutionary hot-moulded vacuum process, and apply them to boat building. Fairey Marine was born.

Based on the River Hamble near Southampton, it began by building a series of sailing dinghies such as the Firefly and International 14 using the hot-moulding process.

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Essentially, this involved bending layers of thin wood veneers over a pre-formed buck, which were then bonded together in a big oven to create a strong, light, rot-resistant hull that could be batch-produced in a factory.

The dinghies were a success and a few years later, they diversified into larger sailing yachts, but it was in the 1960s that our story really begins. A young naval architect called Alan Burnard was employed to evolve a Ray Hunt deep-vee design into a single-engined 23ft motor cruiser called the Fairey Huntress.

Launched in 1959, it was followed a year later by the 28ft Fairey Huntsman. Similar in concept, the extra length gave it even more elegant lines and created space for twin 145hp Perkins diesel engines.

Both the Huntress and Huntsman soon found fame on the big screen, starring alongside Sean Connery in the Bond movie From Russia With Love.

In 1967 the original Fairey Huntsman 28 evolved into the Huntsman 31 with the addition of an aft cabin.

Although developed as a fast cruiser, the Fairey Huntsman also turned out to be a formidable race boat, proving itself in competition. Huntsmen competed successfully in nearly all the major endurance races of the era including the Cowes-Torquay, Round Britain, and London to Monte Carlo races.

Sadly, Fairey Marine went into receivership in 1975, although its legacy lives on in recent reincarnations such as the Supermarine Spearfish 32.

Fairey Huntsman specifications

Launched: 1960
LOA: 28ft 0in (8.53m)
Beam: 8ft 10in (2.7m)
Power: Twin Perkins T6354 145hp 5.95 litre turbo diesel
Speed: 30 knots
Price when launched: Approx £5,000

To submit your suggestion for the world’s coolest boat, head over to the MBY forum.