Australia’s Only Christina!
From the late 1950s into the 1970s, UK-based Fairey Marine produced a series of fast cruisers that rapidly became classics. The designs are highly sought after these days and the rare, beautiful craft we feature here is believed to be the only one of its kind in Australia.
Photograph of a Christina 23′ in 1959 taken by Beken of Cowes.
Fairey Marine Ltd was created in England during the late 1940s by Sir Richard Fairey and Fairey Aviation’s managing director, Mr. Chichester-Smith. Initially, sailing dinghies were produced with great success and then in the 1950s the company produced larger sailing cruisers and motor sailers before moving on to build motor cruisers in the 1960s.
The first of the latter was the 23 foot Huntress which was the brainchild of Richard Fairey, son of Sir Richard. He had spent a lot of time in the Bahamas on holidays and was a keen follower of powerboats. He would often watch the famous offshore race from Miami in the USA to Nassau in the Bahamas. He contacted the legendary Raymond C. Hunt (designer of Bertrams and many other boats) and obtained approval to use his hull drawings in England.
The first model was an open boat that was not very well received in the market. Only a few were built before Fairey Marine decided to produce its own cabin boat which became the Huntress. Other models followed including the 28 and 31 foot Huntsmans, the 33 foot Swordsman with a few Super Swordsman versions at 38 and 41 feet, and later (in fibreglass) the Spearfish with an aft cabin version known as the Fantome and a military model called the Spear.
The Fairey designs received a huge publicity boost when both Huntress and Huntsman 28 models featured in the 1963 James Bond movie ‘From Russia with Love’. The boat in the film driven by 007 (Sean Connery) was a Huntress that had been fitted with an Interceptor V8. The ‘chief baddies’ boat was driven by former world airspeed record holder Peter Twiss (who flew a Fairey Delta 2 aircraft to a record 1,132 mph in 1956). The boats that caught fire were wooden mock-ups (just as well!) that were set ablaze in Pinewood Studios.
The Huntress design was most successful and Fairey sold many to be adapted and marketed by other companies under names such as ‘Christina’ and ‘Dell Quay Ranger’. Both Huntress and Christina boats proved their seaworthiness by successfully competing in offshore races including the Cowes-Torquay classic where, out of a total entry of 47 in the 1962 race, nine were Huntress/Christinas. For the 1963 race, there were 11 of them!
As well as for recreational use, many Huntresses were purchased for interesting tasks such as by the Saudi Arabian Coast Guard, by the Royal Navy for use as Captain’s motor boats on destroyers and aircraft carriers (although these seem to have been used more as water ski boats for the ships’ crews!), and by the Iranian and Libyan navies.
One customer purchased four Huntresses after they proved they could carry a half ton payload and pass a noise test. The boats were shipped to Algeria where they were thought to have been used for gold smuggling operations down the Congo River!
Whilst most of the Huntress production was fitted with fairly small engines (typically four cylinder 145 hp diesels), one 1964-built Huntress is still going strong, in pristine condition in the UK, complete with its original twin Jaguar 3.4 litre engines – that must be a fast Huntress indeed!