Endeavour (I) leading Valsheda off the Needles, 1934 signed 'J. Stephen Dews' (lower left) oil on canvas 61 x 91.5cm (24 x 36in).
After cutting his teeth on Shamrock V, the last of Sir Thomas Lipton's boats bought after Lipton's death in 1931, Mr T.O.M. "Tommy" Sopwith then built two successive yachts named Endeavour with which to mount his own challenges for the elusive America's Cup. Both were J-class boats designed by Charles Nicholson and each was built in Camper & Nicholson's yard at Gosport. The first Endeavour, displacing 143 tons and measuring 129½ feet in length with a 22 foot beam, carried 7,560 square feet of sail and was considered the best J-class boat of her day. During the America's Cup series in September 1934, Endeavour was not only skippered by Sopwith himself but she also featured a double-clewed jib designed by her owner. Defeated by the defender Rainbow by only the narrowest of margins, Endeavour returned home to rightful acclaim and thereafter enjoyed a successful racing career in home waters.
Velsheda, another of the legendary J-boats designed by Charles Nicholson and dubbed "the steel-breasted beauty" due to her distinctive metal hull, was built in 1933 for Mr. W.L. Stephenson, the Chairman of Woolworth's (U.K.). An exceptionally handsome centre-board Bermudian cutter registered at 123½ tons gross (113 net and 205 Thames), Velsheda measured 127½ feet in length with a 21½ foot beam and seemed assured of success upon completion in the early summer of 1933. Her first outing was at the Harwich Regatta where, disappointingly, she not only failed to make an impression but also broke her boom. Benefiting from a new boom and some radical alterations to her trim however, she was much improved and at the Clyde Regatta the same autumn she scored five 'firsts' to Britannia's and Shamrock's two each. Going on to Belfast Lough, where she broke her boom a second time, she achieved more success and ended her maiden season with a total of twenty 1st prize flags compared to her nearest rival Britannia which could only manage twelve. The next season, King George V's last, brought Velsheda further success and she enjoyed an exceptional career until 1939 when she was laid up at the outbreak of the Second World War. Surviving the War, unlike many of her great contemporaries which were destroyed when Camper & Nicholson's Gosport yard was bombed, she was not refitted for racing and, sadly, was eventually consigned to a mudbank on the Hamble River where she languished for a number of years until rescued for restoration in 1983.
Clearly a favourite with Dews, he has painted Velsheda on several occasions depicting different events in her long life and another equally splendid portrayal of these two thoroughbreds was sold in these rooms for £68,812 on 5th September 2001 (lot 267).