Camper & Nicholsons has existed formally since 1855, though William Camper and Ben Nicholson had been associated since 1842. The yacht building yard which still bears their names was in fact founded as early as 1782 with William Camper’s involvement dating back to 1809. By 1882 the Yachting Gazette considered the firm to be undoubtedly the first in the kingdom, a reputation in large part due to the formidable fleet of yachts designed by Ben Nicholson. The 1880’s saw the second generation of Nicholsons enter the family firm and with them, Charles E Nicholson, who was to bring the firm worldwide acclaim. From his drawing board came the designs for the first Marconi Rig, the first Bermudan rig of significant proportions and innovations enough to fuel fifty years of racing yacht design. Amongst the most significant racing yachts are four America’s Cup Challengers. Beyond their role as designers, Camper & Nicholsons is perhaps most importantly known for excellence in yacht building. Most significant yacht designers ranging from William Fife Jnr and GLWatson to Sparkman & Stephens and Ron Holland, have seen their designs take shape at Camper & Nicholsons. A fleet of motor yachts, which in tonnage terms way exceed the sailing yachts, has been launched from both the Southampton and Gosport yards. These include not only the largest private yacht built in England, but also the world’s first large diesel powered yacht. From 1912 to 1939, Camper & Nicholsons was the world’s largest yacht building company. Throughout both World Wars, the firm has played a prominent role both in naval conversion and construction as well as conceiving some of the more unusual craft used by the Forces. A shortage of flying boats during the First World War saw the creation of the Gosport Aircraft Co, a CNI subsidiary.
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