World’s coolest boats: Why the original Levi Corsair is still going strong 60 years on

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 Levi Corsair…

A few months ago we covered the Supermarine Swordfish, a boat heavily inspired by the 1964 Fairey Swordsman. This month we’re bringing you the Levi Corsair, but this boat was not inspired by its 1963 namesake. It is actually the same boat. And you can still have a new one built to order.

There are detail differences, the coaming that wraps around the back of the cockpit is slightly higher, the original square-cornered windscreen frame is now a sweep of curved stainless steel, the pulpit rail is slightly higher and slightly longer and… and that’s about it.

The low coachroof, wide side decks and gorgeous sweep of sheer line are exactly as per the original; this remains one of the coolest and most beautiful boats on the water.

Named after its legendary designer and powerboat racer Sonny Levi, it started life as a race boat, designed to compete in the challenging Cowes-Torquay-Cowes race. A Speranziella had run before, coming sixth in 1961.

In 1963, with a tweaked design and twin 400hp Interceptor engines, A Speranziella was running fourth, but on the return leg and with a Force 8 wind building, the previously calm conditions deteriorated significantly. Sonny Levi was able to keep the power on, passing the three front runners and winning the race with an average speed of 36 knots!

‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday,’ so goes the mantra, and on the back of that win, a cruiser version of that boat went into production. Powered by rather more prosaic 145hp motors, production boats were nonetheless still capable of over 30 knots.

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Today, while the exterior remains close to the original, engine technology has moved on and production boats now have up to a combined 700hp of power, giving speeds of up to 50 knots, faster even than the original race boat.

The interior has also received a serious upgrade. A feast of highly lacquered and polished mahogany lit by strips of ultra-modern RGB LED lighting, it goes a long way to explaining why it takes Venetian artisans five months to build each boat.

But it is the style and the seakeeping that remains the stand-out feature. As Levi himself once said: “I have always tried to create good looking boats – after all, the aesthetic is what you see – but it must always be dictated by hydrodynamic design.”

Levi Corsair specifications

Year launched: 1963
LOA: 26ft 11in / 8.2m
Beam: 8ft 10in / 2.7m
Power: Up to twin 350hp
Speed: Up to 50 knots