A bit o’ history from Camper and Nicholson

On January 15, 1906 the YRA (Yacht Racing Association) organized an international meeting in London between the heads of the associations of the various European countries that had established regulations for the rating and construction of racing yachts. The purpose of the meeting was to agree on a single international rule.

Following this important meeting of the most famous naval engineers and yacht designers, the basis for an agreement was established. On October 14th, 1907 in Paris the representatives of European nations interested in yachting unanimously approved the results of the International Conference and created the IYRU (International Yacht Racing Union) and the international racing rules. Ratings were expressed in metres, so the new racing yachts would be called Metrics, and classes of fixed ratings were established. The most successful classes, some of which are still in use today are the 5.5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15,19, and 23.

In 1906, Charles Ernest Nicholson designed Nyria (C&N Newsletter N°4), in accordance to the Lloyds Register for yachts. Formulated a few years earlier, the rules define specifications for materials and have since proved to be a great guarantee in creating standards for racing yacht construction.

Following Nicholson’s success, at the 1907 International Conference, the designers and yachtsmen representing European yachting gave Lloyds Registers, Bureau Veritas and Germanishe Lloyds the task of regulating the sizing and classification of metric yachts by laying down Scantling Rules which were to be adapted and verified during construction by ship register experts. Only then would boats of the metric classes be classified as rugged and seaworthy and be registered with an R for Racer. The following sentence was approved: “The metric class yacht must be a sailing vessel that combines habitability, strength and speed.”

Unfortunately, she was not a lucky boat. She was launched on a Friday and the superstitions of many were unfortunately confirmed quite soon. During her first sailing trials the man at the masthead fell and was killed. During her first season, she lost another man overboard, and when racing off Warner in a fresh breeze she carried off her topmast.

On May 23, 1910, while racing off Harwich, her mast jumped out of its step and went through the bottom. Mr Nicholson, who had previously asked for the rigging to be tightened, which was not done, was on board and believed this to be the cause of the problem. It was never repaired.
After this sad and unfortunate experience, the first very successful metric boats from C&N were the famous 15MR of 1912-1913. The 15M yachts are the most beautiful racing boats ever, as they are not extremely long and can be raced by a handy crew of 10.

Between 1907 and 1914, 19 cutters of the 15M class were built, including 3 by Nicholson, 6 by Fife and 4 by Mylne. Unfortunately, only four Fife cutters survive today, fully restored and in perfect condition, and they make for splendid racing: Tuiga, Hispania, Mariska and The Lady Ann.
Nicholson’s three boats, Istria, Paula III and Pamela were considered exceptional. Istria is the most significant candidate if one wanted to create a replica of a 15MR.

Quoting the naval engineer Theo Rye (unfortunately recently and prematurely passed) “Not only did she have a great racing record, she is important in terms of yacht development history. Istria is widely considered to be one of Charles Nicholson’s most significant commissions of his career.

ISTRIA, Yard # 204, was designed by C.E. Nicholson as a 1st International Rule 15 Metre cutter for Sir Charles Allom and built at our Gosport yard in 1912. She was a highly innovative yacht with double skin planking on longitudinal stringers and laminated frames and considerable tumblehome of the topsides. Her length on deck was 24m and 14.80m at the waterline.

She was however best known for her one-piece socketed topmast, complex rigging and a track for the topsail which became known as her Marconi rig.

She was extremely successful, winning 35 flags out of 36 starts that year including the Commodores Cup in Kiel. She was followed the next year by two 15M sister ships, Y.N. 208 Pamela and Y.N. 209 Paula III. These 15m were hugely influential for the design of Y.N. 214, Shamrock IV.