Azzahr

A fast launch based on an early 1900s original

Azzahr is a magnificent fast launch originally built we believe by JW Brooke of Lowestoft and one of the UK’s foremost builders of innovative boats in Edwardian times when speed was the name of the game. It is likely that he built it for Howard Hollingsworth who was enamoured of speed and yachting. The philanthropist Howard Hollingsworth, co-founder of Bourne and Hollingsworth Department Store, visited Lowestoft in 1908 and later bought and renovated the burnt out Briar Clyffe House and grounds on Gunton Cliff. How fitting therefore that two other East Anglian business owners decided a century later to make a mould from this magnificent craft and resurrect it.

There were two replica launches taken off the mould derived from this derelict fast launch found in Norfolk. One was named Rocinante and the other Azzarh (as in the game of dice);

The vendor writes

“I am the owner of the “other” boat, which is called Hazard.  I was privileged enough to be able to buy Holly Farm from Colin Sanderson and family when they moved in 1995. The original launch was left in the garden when they went, and so its remains became mine. It had indeed been rescued by Steve Sanderson from the river bank at Yarmouth where it would surely have soon ended its days. It had not however been subject to any works thereafter and if there was an engine with it then, it had quite literally fallen through the bottom and disappeared by the time we found it. My company has restored many wooden boats a lot older than this, so I can say with confidence that it was beyond repair with one caveat – had we been able to find any provenance, there might have been some reason to retrieve it but as with so many old launches like this, they spent very little time in their original use and ownership, and very many years as day hire craft during which much of the original boat’s details were lost.

Dick Farrar approached me with a proposal that he should take the remains and would try to repair and reinforce it to a fair enough shape to be able to take a mould off it. If he was successful, I would get use of the tool for one moulding and if he was unsuccessful, well he would save me the trouble of disposing of the wreck. Dick made a fantastic job of saving the hull shape and fairing the remains, and I was very pleased to take a very clean moulding out of the tool.

Dick completed his boat first, very much like a slipper launch in layout, with the engine up front under the foredeck and one large cockpit with Lloyd Loom chairs. At Dick’s suggestion (I suspect to preserve the uniqueness of his own boat!), I went a different route, with the engine mounted dead amidships under deck hatches and with two small cockpits, one in front and one behind the engine. The engine is a Chevrolet 6.5 litre V8 diesel that  ”pushes it along nicely”. All construction was done in my workshops at home (where the original boat was), between myself, Alan Lee and Maynard Watson.

Aside from the hull, all construction is teak, selected by me in India and being mostly the off cuts and scraps from the restoration of the Wherry Ardea that my company was performing at the same time. Many people have complimented me on the finished article but to save anyone asking, Dick Farrar has never given permission for any further copies and I doubt he ever will!.’

‘On the measured mile, Hazard or Azzahr was timed at a relatively sedate 25 knots. It would obviously be even quicker with a lighter engine of similar output, but actually I like the way it feels – which is substantial! These boats were originally built at a time when planing hull design was in its infancy (the thinking then was narrow and long was equal to fast) and the hull form is too narrow really to be a proper planing hull – it is more semi-displacement – but it does get up and go although being so long, it has a big turning circle. I also have a wooden 1950s Chris-Craft Continental, which planes easily and is much faster with the same engine, as it is much wider in the beam and flat aft so planes cleanly, it also turns on a dime such was the way hull design moved on between the wars.

We did do some further research on the boat after the replica Hazard project got under way and although we certainly never found any inkling of who might have been the builder or even the date of build or first owner (in fact not an iota of solid information from before Steve finding it), we did date it according to contemporary hull development and similar racing craft, to a probable build date of around 1910. It is possible that the boat could be one of a clutch of local boats built for Howard Hollingsworth, who also much later commissioned Ardea, but before the first war was a launch racing enthusiast.

He raced here in Norfolk and in Monaco (he had that sort of money) and I have a picture of him sitting squarely in a large overcoat driving a very similar looking launch at speed.

The critical thing to recognise with dating hulls from this era, is that both hull design and available engine output were of a similar level of development before the first world war and planing hull design only really developed when available engine output increased to a level where planing became feasible. A Brooke Marine engine of the time would have been of heavy cast iron and brass construction, and would have struggled to put out 30hp for launch of this size, whereas the first war prompted development in aviation engines that within the next five years saw engines built lighter in aluminium and out puts increase by a factor of 10.

This was why launch racing was transformed the moment the war was over, as there was a huge surplus of otherwise worthless aero engines that innovative builders snapped up and used to build racing boats around them. Then you had Malcolm Campbell and others vying for new world records seemingly in successive weeks and the rest is history. The boats from before the war, such that they were, were rendered obsolete overnight and thus consigned to the ignominy of being used as hired day boats, if in fact they weren’t simply destroyed, which is why so little is known of them now.

Many years ago, myself and colleague Steve Evans (South River Marine) worked on a very old speed boat called The Bat Boat, which dated from 1912. It was a preserved example of an experimental hull design and was actually one of the very first stepped-hull hydroplanes to come into existence, and powered by a vast 12-litre V8 aero engine. The reason for the step was to enhance the performance of the floats on early sea planes, as the step in the hull promoted aeration of the water flowing underneath, which in turn promoted planing at a lower speed. These two areas of development ie flying boat float and fast hull design thus had much in common from a very early stage and knowledge of that development enables us to tie down the hull age pretty closely of the original boat.”

The detailing on Azzarh is exceptional and while this could not be described as a sociable boat it certainly has pzazz and vavavoom aplenty. On a lake, mere or loch with no speed restrictions this could be a very exciting boat and a real head turner.

To view please call the office on 01491 578870. The boat is sold with a road trailer.