Cambria II – Review


Iain Murray couples modern technology and old world charm to create this work of art.

Cambria II is one of the great encores of maritime history. The vessel is named Cambria II because she was built for the former owner of Cambria. Cambria is a 135ft-cutter built in 1928 to the 23m-class rule.

She was designed by Scotsman William Fife whose reputation as a designer is rapidly approaching godlike status among the glitterati of the classic boat fraternity. Cambria is a hard act to follow.

John David of Sydney owned Cambria for 10 years. He bought her in Australia as a very tired ketch, had her rebuilt by Iain Murray, took her to the Mediterranean and Caribbean and joined the classic yacht regatta circuit, which roams between places like Monaco, St. Tropez and Antigua. This fleet is probably the most remarkable group of sailing craft ever to assemble, or at least since Francis Drake engaged in competitive sailing with the Spanish.

But this time John wanted a family yacht, so he decided Cambria II would be a powered craft. The association with Cambria made Iain Murray the obvious choice as designer and, because of Murray’s association with Azzura Yachts, the boat would be built at the company’s factory at Coomera on the Gold Coast.

Cambria II’s 30m, semi-displacement chined hull is fibreglass, solid below the waterline, cored with balsa above. She is driven by two 1000hp straight-six Caterpillar diesels. Her  top speed is 17 knots, and 14 knots is an  easy cruise.

“Boosting cruise speed from 14 knots to 17 doubles the fuel consumption,” says skipper Peter Mandin.
She was planned as a family boat but the owner wants to charter her as well. “The boat was designed with the Kimberley area in mind,” says Peter, “which is why there is so much boat and not much sunning area.
“Cambria II will be based out of Broome in the season and spend a month at a time in Western Australia’s Kimberley.”
When she’s not in the Kimberley she may spend a lot of time at Hamilton Island. No need for flybridges and sun lounges there, either.

Cambria II’s straight-stemmed hull shows retro influences without being slavishly old-fashioned. There is no look-at-me flamboyance. She is bluff-bowed with high bulwarks forward and looks what she is, a long-distance cruiser rather than a marina poseur.

The interior is from the 1920s, designed by Thomas Hamel of Sydney who collaborated with the owner and skipper. “The interior was inspired by the original Cambria,” says Peter. “If we had any questions about the joinery we turned to the photos of Cambria. It was a Fife build, really.”

The trim is Brazilian mahogany. The owner originally wanted French-polished trim but settled for a varnish finish like that on Cambria. Perhaps the most striking area is the steering station, which is a full-width bridge deck. The telegraph is from one of those shipwrecking yards in India, tracked down over the Internet. The ship’s name is cast into the binnacle. Behind the helm are three leather-covered armchairs that look 1920s vintage but are new. The leather was aged by a craftsman in Brisbane. This is where the owner will sit when Cambria II is following the current
family race yacht.

The saloon table looks antique but is new. The d?cor is crystal and brass, leather and aged wood, marble and subdued fabrics. The atmosphere is from another era. On the lower deck is the best room in the house, a library that was inspired by the library on Adix, the three-masted schooner on which skipper Peter sailed many miles. She was once owned by Alan Bond and known as Fourex. Remember that era?

Actually, the best room in the house is probably the owner’s cabin. It’s on the main deck in the forward part of the superstructure, with panoramic views, a cedar-lined wardrobe and marble in the bathroom.

The traditional theme (the word ‘retro’ is seems silly when applied to boats) continues on deck. The owner did not want the stainless steel look, which has become almost universal (“so much polishing”), so fairleads and cleats are in aluminium bronze. So too is the winch by Muirs, the third built to a design originally made up for Adix.

Down below, the ship’s working areas owe nothing to nolstalgia. The galley is a vista of stainless steel, but the island preparation bench makes the galley a space that can be worked in a seaway.

In the engine room are two 30kVa generators, two water makers, which can produce 5000lt a day. Unique to this boat is the cooling system, which brings in the water through open-bottomed standing pipes (lift the lid and you can see the plastic bag obstructing the intake) and clear-fronted chests so you can see instantly if cooling water is restricted. This engine room is big the Cats seem quite small in this space, the domain of the mate/engineer. For charter there’s a crew of four skipper, mate, head stewardess and cook/stewardess. Cambria II has cabins for six guests and four children.

Many superyachts can be admired but Cambria II is one that can be liked. It is a relief to see a boat that owes little to the relentless pursuit of the so-called minimalist style, which I find alienating as a habitat. At the end of a tough day’s charter in the Kimberley this interior would be a wonderful place to retreat from the sun and glare, to recharge the batteries.

But the best items of decor in my opinion, are two photographs. One shows Cambria (the yacht), fully crewed, heaving over a big sea off Antigua. The other shows Cambria sailing with what appears to be no crew. This was a race in which John and Peter sailed the 135-footer two-handed. They raised and lowered the sails, tacking six times on a 15-mile course. “The gybing was the big problem,” says Peter, “cranking in the mainsail then balancing it and the boat while changing the runners.”

It’s a different world, the realm of these magnificent superyachts.