Aluminium Raceboats

You would be forgiven in thinking that when Enfield Marine started producing the now well document Don Shead designed aluminium race winners of the early 70’s onward that this use of the metal was a new direction in powerboating racing’s search for strong lightweight materials.

You would very wrong for as far back as the 1962 race the use of this building material was used for racing. The first boat was Cheetah 1, she was 32 ft and was powered by 2 3.8 ltr marinised Jaguar engines, partly designed by Jaguar engineers, owned by John Coombes of Jaguar fame and built in Aluminium by A.E.Freezer of Hayling Island.

History - Aluminium Raceboats

Ernie Freezer was a major player in building aluminium craft many specifically for the navy which were finished by Fairey Marine. His yard also built many renowned cruiser/racers probably the best known being Willick for the Cundy family. Anyway lets go back to the beginning..

Cheetah in her first year won the All British prize in the 1962 Cowes Torquay race in the hands of John and Ernie when she finished 9th overall with ace navigater Geoff Fanner who had been Tommy Sopwith’s crew in 1961.

The following year 1963 saw 2 new boats from Freezers yard IMPETUS a 25ft turtle deck hull powered by 2 Rolls Royce V8 petrol’s totalling 480hp

Impetus - 1963

Impetus 1963

and Just Dandy

Just Dandy

Which was a 25ft hull powered by twin Perkins diesels and raced by Andy Bolton. Ernie brought Impetus home in 15th position with Just Dandy arriving at Torquay in 26th place.

Cheetah 1 was also entered but as far as we can ascertain did not take part.

1964 again saw Impetus, new entrants Willick and Finandandy participating in the CT, no Just Dandy and Cheetah though entered again failed to start

History - Aluminium Raceboats

Finandandy was a 28ft hull powered by twin Perkins totalling 290hp. Impetus was now owned by G. C. Terry, who also owned and raced the diesel powered Huntsman Sea Plough but was driven by Ernie.

Impetus finished 14th, Finandandy 22nd and Willick 38th

Willick designed by Fairmile was 39ft oa (overall length) and powered by two Perkins diesels totalling 290 hp

Willick - 1964

Willick – 1964

For the 1965 season 2 new boats appeared from the Freezer yard a new boat for Ernie, powered by a single 220hp Mercruiser , "Nebulous" and "Blue Rain" for Marinda Cundy daughter of Willick’s owner powered by 2 Perkins totalling 200hp. Unfortunately neither finished and again it was left to Andy Bolton in Finandandy to bring home the honours in 13th overall.



All Freezer craft were strongly built and capable of surviving all that the Cowes Torquay could throw at them but offshore design was moving rapidly on and cruisers were losing out to specialist designs, never the less the rough race of 1966 saw Finandandy entered, only to retire.

By ‘67 and the big rule shake up with the boats being segregated into OP1 OP2 and Class 1 & 2, the heavy Freezer boats with their low but reliable horsepower were not now really capable of racing against the likes of the modern boats, ie Surfury and the new American Aronow Magnums etc.

Not one to be beaten in 1968 the smaller Just Dandy reappeared in the hands of Ernie but she again retired.

For 1969 the Cundy family had a new boat built Willick 2. She was 54ft overall and powered by 2 Rolls Royce engines totalling 640hp, entered for the ‘69 Round Britain race she finished as tail end charlie in 24th position.

Willick is often to be seen in the Cowes Yacht Haven, Finandandy is apparently in Jersey but in poor condition, as to the other boats who knows but they must survive somewhere. Quality built in riveted aluminium Freezer craft were strong craft and one of our club members owns one of the 23 ft Turtle decks which he is restoring, she is supposed to have race history and it is possible she is either Blue Rain or Nebulous.

Whilst the Enfield craft took off on their victory paths hotly persued by the CUV’s and the Alldays, Ernie and John Teale built Smuggler a 27ft Dynaplane powered again by Perkins diesels. The first of her type built for racing she entered the C-T-C in 1970 and 71 but such was the complicated technology of the dynaplane she failed in each race but well done to Ernie for trying new technology…




maybe if larger more modern engines had been used his craft would have been more successful who knows and the last seen of Smuggler was many years ago in the boat scrap yard on the Itchen which itself has now gone. It also seems that not long after Freezers also ceased to exist along with many of the other pioneers of the 60’s.

listing courtesy of Graham Stephens

listing courtesy of Graham Stephens

Mike James
August 2011

Recent Posts

Renato (Sonny) Levi.

Renato Levi, known to all as Sonny, was born in Karachi, India in 1926.
His father ran a shipyard in Bombay(now Mumbai), so Sonny naturally took an
early interest in boats & ships.

Sonny became an apprentice in his fathers shipyard in Bombay, but with the coming of World War 2, he joined the RAF, becoming a Pilot Officer. No doubt his interest not only in boats but also aircraft was heightened by this part of his life.

Sonny became primarily interested in marine design, especially in relation to smaller, fast craft, and the ability of such craft to withstand the varieties of sea conditions often encountered. He designed craft for his fathers yard during the 1950’s, but moved to Italy in 1960. In Italy, Sonny managed Cantiere Navaltecnica (Canav), in Anzio.

No one of a certain age can forget “A’Speranziella”, built by Canav to Sonny’s design for the 1961 Cowes-Torquay Race. She finished sixth, after experiencing mechanical problems, but had led the race for a considerable distance, dueling with the eventual winner “Thunderbolt”.

After partially re-building the boat in light of the experiences of 1961, success dawned with a win in the 1962 Viareggio-Bastia Race. Further developments resulted in great success with “A’Speranziella” winning the 1963 Cowes-Torquay Race.

Sonny became a world renowned designer of fast craft largely as a result of these successes, and the many fast craft he designed culminated in the 1965 launch of
“Surfury”, often thought of as one of Sonny’s most memorable designs. This boat
made a name for herself, winning Cowes-Torquay in 1967. “Surfury” was the first of Sonny’s much lauded Delta designs.

This success brought more commissions, and Levi designs were sought world wide,
where fast sea-going boats were needed.

In the 1980’s, Richard Branson commissioned Sonny to design “Virgin Atlantic
Challenger II”, which was successful in recording the then fastest trans-Atlantic crossing, despite contaminated fuel issues en route. This famous boat was certainly a fabulous marker in Sonny’s career. “VAC II” not only had its design by Sonny, but also the Levi Drive system too.

Developments in high speed propeller and drive systems have been part of Sonny’s
great contribution to fast boat development over the last forty or more years.

Martin Napier

  1. SURFURY Leave a reply
  2. Westcraft of Topsham Leave a reply
  3. BELLA 2 Leave a reply
  4. Foam Flyer Leave a reply
  5. Here and Now Leave a reply
  6. A’speranziella Leave a reply
  7. S.E.Saunders Launch Leave a reply
  8. CT 1961 by Charles Lawrence Leave a reply
  9. WoodenBoat Bertram 31 article Leave a reply