The model, previously owned by George Nicholson, legendary superyacht broker and Honourary Chairman of Camper & Nicholsons International, will surely be a highlight during Bonhams two-day Gentleman’s Library sale on January 28 and 29 in Knightsbridge, London.
Originally called SY Philante, the yacht itself was commissioned by iconic British yachtsman and aircraft manufacturer Sir Thomas Sopwith in 1934, built by Camper & Nicholson (when they were still builders) at Gosport, and launched in 1937. At the outbreak of World War II, she was requested to serve as a convoy escort by the Admiralty, and renamed HMS Phylante. In 1946, at the end of the war, she was returned to Tommy Sopwith, who sold her a year later to the Norwegian Government. She underwent a substantial refit before passing to King Haakon Vll of Norway in 1948.
(I have a peculiar affection for Norway and ships, having served my apprenticeship aboard the Picton Castle, which, in her previous form as an English fishing trawler-turned minesweeper in World War II, became the “Liberator of Norway,” when she sailed into Bergen after the Germans had decamped.)
The story of the yacht proper is impressive. According to the Bonhams catalogue:
- When Prince Carl of Denmark acceded to the Norwegian throne as King Haarkon Vll in 1905, he was promised a royal yacht, in line with most European Monarchs. However, economic problems and WWI intervened to prevent this actually taking place. Following the end of WWII, a nation-wide appeal was launched to finally purchase a yacht for the elderly King, held in huge respect for his resistance to Nazi Germany and attention focused on Sopwith's yacht, which was purchased for him in 1947. A model was commissioned, which was finished in time to be presented to the King for his 75th birthday, and the refitted vessel, now renamed Norge (Norway) sailed to Scandinavia in 1948. Taken over by King Olav after King Haakon's death in 1957, she underwent a 10 year refitting programme and was extensively used for State and pleasure purposes by the Royal Family. A serious fire in 1985 occasioned a further extensive refit. Now owned by King Harald, Norge is still fully employed on royal duties. She is one of only three European Royal Yachts still in commission (the others belonging Denmark and Holland).
The model is one of three commissioned from Bassett-Lowke in 1947: one was given to Sir Thomas Sopwith, another was passed to King Haakon as a birthday present and the Bonhams model (lot 384), was retained by Camper & Nicholson.
Here’s the catalogue description:
A fine shipbuilders model of K/S Norge, ex. SY Philante 1937, the Norwegian Royal Yacht Commissioned from Bassett-Lowke Ltd. following her refit in 1947. Hull of solid timber, painted white to the waterline with brass edged portlights and windows, and accommodation ladders slung outboard on both sides. Maroon below, with a broad blue boot top and twin, four blade brass propellers. Timber decks with inscribed plank lines in Indian ink. White superstructure with buff funnel and open bridge, with wheel binnacle and wing telegraphs. Fine metal detailing includes anchors, cable and windlass, ventilators, cargo derrick, radar and searchlight, guard rails and stanchions, ship's boats and launches on davits. Mounted on silvered posts in a glazed mahogany display case and bearing a brass plaque inscribed SY Philante built by Camper and Nicholson 1937 for Sir Thomas Sopwith Draft 15ft6in Length 263ft Displacement 1,600tons Beam 38ft. Royal Yacht Norge Camper & Nicholson refit 1947/8 for King Haakon of Norway. The model 65ins.(165cm)long. Also included is a framed telegram from King Haakon to Charles Nicholson, "Thank you and all your hands for excellent work refitting Norge for her new purpose" 77x20x60ins.(196x51x153cm) 2
I spoke with Chloe Ashby at Bonhams who said from their experience, a mix of people collect these kinds of models, but quite often the buyers have an association with the vessels and are following a personal connection.
Bonhams have put an estimated of £15,000 - 20,000 (€18,000 - 24,000), including buyers' premium.
See more of Bonhams Gentleman's Library Sale here.