History of the Hunter Association
We believe the Hunter Association started on the East Coast in the late 80s or early 90s. One of our long standing members recalls that in September 1993, IDLEFLITE, a Hunter Duette, competed in a Regatta organised by Crouch Yacht Club at Burnham and was awarded the Traveller's Trophy for having sailed all the way from Norfolk!
If you have any information about that group please contact us, using the Contact Us form.
The first members' newsletter we have in our library is "Wiley Wanderers" (Newsletter Issue 1 & Issue 2) also formed in the early 90s for Hunter owners who wanted to cruise in company, and have weekends together.
In the late 80s the Hunter 27 OOD, a racer/cruising boat came on the market, and the 27 OOD Class Association was formed with a proper constitution, and regular race meetings in the Solent area.
As members moved on, sold their boats and boat groups saw dwindling numbers in membership, the "Wiley Wanderers" joined in with the 27 OOD class and the Hunter Association was born again.
Although an active association, in the late 90s membership had declined again, and activities had been reduced to a yearly Spring rally at the Folly Inn, on the River Medina, Isle of Wight.
In in the early 2000s it was felt that there should be a national organisation to cater for the needs of owners of all classes of British Hunter boats that did not have their own single class association. It was estimated that there were nearly 3,000 such boats in existence. With the popularity of home computers and the Internet, it was decided that this enlarged association could be largely web based and so a website was created, for members to share their building, and cruising experiences, and also to allow some automation in new members joining and database maintenance.
To cover some of the costs in running a website, a modest membership fee was re-introduced. This also allowed us to produce a members’ magazine, Horizons, the only sailing magazine publishing your Hunter stories.
We have always strived to be informal and had for years enjoyed the association being run efficiently, however with a web site to maintain, a growing number of memberships, it was found necessary to have a proper committee, constitution, AGM and separate out some of the committee roles.
In January 2015, we became affiliated with the RYA, thus benefiting members not belonging to RYA affiliated sailing clubs with the oppotunity to visit other affiliated sailing clubs and use their facilities.
The biggest success is this website, which has recently been totally recreated and updated. A large volume of information is stored and we are still building the library for more and more information about Hunter boats. The Horizon magazine is a popular addition where members tell us their stories, sailing adventures, technical difficulties and solutions. We strive to issue two magazines a year, but it is reliant on members telling us their stories.
We encourage a racing and a social side, but you could be forgiven for thinking that this only happens in the Solent. We do know there are other races around the country, sadly members do not often tell us about them. The Hunter Association does offer some financial subsidy for rallies and racing events.
Over the years Hunter Association has gone from strength to strength and by coming together we can all benefit from each other's experiences.
History of Hunter Boats and their yachts
Hunter Boats started life close to the Wakering marshes near Rochford back in 1969. The Beatles were in full flow and Oasis had probably not yet been born. A few years later the company moved to a new custom built factory off Sutton Road, in Rochford where the building of Hunter boats continued until 2004.
The first famous sailboat was the National Squib, designed and finished by Oliver Lee and first moulded by Hunter (then called the Essex Boat Company) in 1968. The Squib flourished, achieved National Status, and is still built to this day (not by Hunter Boats), with total numbers now exceeding 800.
A year or so later, one Peter Poland asked Oliver if he could put a lid on a Squib, so that he could go cross Channel JOG racing in a boat that would cost less than a full set of B&G instruments. Oliver relented, and designed a proper fibreglass lid to go on the Squib. Since Peter Poland's other favourite pastime was hunting, the new model was called the Hunter. And so began the new Hunter line.
Oliver designed several other Hunters for the renamed Hunter Boats Ltd between 1969 and 1975; the 16' lifting keel Hunter 490, the 23' Hunter 701, the Tracer (a mini Squib with lifting keel) and the revamped Hunter 19 that changed her name to the Hunter Europa. All sold well, and multiplied in yacht harbours in the UK and abroad.
Perhaps the most famous exploit was David Blagden's epic success in the 1972 Observer Single-Handed Transatlantic Race. His diminutive Hunter 19 "Willing Griffin" survived many Atlantic storms and finished the race, the smallest yacht ever to do the official Single-Handed Transatlantic. Visit your local library and find "Very Willing Griffin" by David Blagden. It's an inspiring read.
In 1975 Hunter Boats met designer David Thomas and were much taken by his one-off Quarter Tonner called Quarto. David said he would design a round bilged GRP development; and the Sonata was born. She became an RYA National Status Class, and remains a leading One-Design cruiser-racer to this day. Over the ensuing years, the Sonata was followed by the 28' Hunter Impala, the Hunter Delta 25, the lifting keel Hunter Medina 20, and the somewhat unorthodox but very popular cat ketch-rigged centreboarder, the Hunter Liberty 22 and 23. A gaff-rigged sister-ship went under the name of the Hunter Minstrel 23.
During the same period, Hunter Boats built three pure race boats by different designers. These were the lifting keel 22' Formula One and larger Formula 28 by Stephen Jones. Both win races to this day. They also built the more exotic production Half Ton Van de Stadt designed HB31. She and the Formula designs were the first production boats to use Kevlar in their standard laminates. All three boats continue to excel on the race course.
In 1984, Hunter decided to investigate Twin Keels and move towards cruisers rather than Cruiser-Racers. The first of this new range of cruisers was the Hunter Horizon 26, and in 1984 she won the Best Production Boat of the Year Award. She was soon joined by the twin keel Hunter Duette 23 (a Sonata development with twin keels), the Hunter Horizon 27, 272 and 273, and the Hunter Horizon 32 wheelhouse cruiser. The new 32 also won the Award for the best Production Cruiser of the year in 1987. The Fin Keel Hunter 27OOD was a larger rigged and quicker version of the Horizon 27. The last Horizon models were the 21, 23 and the 30; also predominantly Twin Keelers.
In 1991, the new Channel 323 was the biggest cruiser in the range. Most had twin keels, but a later introduced 323 Fin Keeler was also popular.
In 1994, Hunter Boats introduced the new Ranger hull shape. Designed by David Thomas, these hulls have long waterlines, great stability and a subtle chine that runs from transom to amidships. This adds further to stability and produces a hull that sails in a straight line with consummate ease. Hunter owners had become less interested in racing over the years; solid and quick cruisers were becoming more in demand.
The Ranger 265 and Channel 245 follow this theme. The Pilot 27 is a deck saloon development, offering inside steering and all round vision from the dinette settees. Now the new Channel 27 cruiser, which is a conventional roof version of the Pilot 27, has replaced the Ranger 265.
And, in case the go-faster boys felt left out, the Hunter 707, a dynamic, planing sportsboat, hit the scene in late 1995, and has grown into one of the biggest, fastest and most entertaining keelboat classes in the land. In 1996, she was voted Yacht of the Year ... a rare accolade. At just under 24' overall, the Hunter 707 takes a crew of 4-5 and gives them total sport and very close, exciting racing.
Then there was a new departure ... a motor boat! The Landau 20 Cruiser, built by Hunter for the Landau Launch Company, won the 1998 motorboat design competition and made its first appearance at Earls Court in 1999. This has been followed by the Landau 20 Walkaround and the Landau 29 Continental.
An all new Channel 31 was launched in 2000 and is still building. And in 2003, the latest in the range, the Mystery 35, was launched. This elegant model combines modern design with traditional performance and interior layout.
In 2003, Hunter Boats was taken over by the Select Yachts Group, which also comprised Cornish Crabbers, Red Fox Yachts, the Landau Launch Company and Cornish Diva. Hunters continued to be produced under this new management however, regrettably, in late 2008, Select Yachts went into administration.
Fortunately, Lauren Marine stepped in to buy the tools and rights to build the Hunter 20 (ex Red Fox), Channel 245, Channel 27 and 31, so we can enjoy these great British Hunter boats continuing to be built in Southampton under the British Hunter banner.