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Goodwood Members' Meeting / First owned by HRH the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,1956 Albatross MkIII Super Sports Runabout
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Albatross Marine Ltd was founded in 1949 by Archie Peace, an aircraft engineer formerly with the Bristol Aeroplane Company, at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk where he was soon joined by business partners Peter Hives and Bruce Campbell. All three men shared a common background in aircraft engineering and set about applying their skills to the manufacture of marine craft, making use of the plentiful supplies of aluminium alloy left over from the war effort. To get the ball rolling, three racing hydroplanes were constructed to publicise the fledgling firm and help generate the investment required.
By the start of 1951 the company was ready to introduce the prototype of its first product, the Albatross Sports Runabout, which was unveiled to the boating press at Ruislip Lido in Middlesex, home of the Ruislip Water Ski Club, in March of that year. A three-seater craft of 12' 9" in length, the first Albatross was powered by a marinised version of Ford's 100E 1,172cc four-cylinder sidevalve engine and had a maximum speed of 34mph, making it ideal for water skiing. Indeed, the Ruislip club was one of the first customers for the production version, which was designated Albatross MkII.
Introduced in May 1956, the successor MkIII model retained the MkII's riveted aluminium, stepless planing hull with only minor changes but was fitted with an improved and more powerful version of the ubiquitous Ford sidevalve engine.
The Albatross was a quality product and attracted a distinguished clientele. Brigitte Bardot was photographed in an Albatross at St Tropez, while HRH Prince Phillip owned two at different times, which were kept on board the Royal Yacht Britannia and used for water skiing. Aristotle Onassis owned an Albatross; Prince Rainier of Monaco had six at one time; Thai racing driver Prince Bira owned another; and Lord and Lady Docker kept one (for water skiing) aboard their classic super yacht, Shemara. Albatross speedboats were raced successfully in the Paris Six-Hour race and were championed by the late David Nations, once described by Lord Mountbatten as 'the father of British water skiing'. Sold all around the world, these charming little boats were adored by royalty, celebrities and boat enthusiasts alike. Around 1,300 of various types were made.
Towing it behind a Bentley MkVI, The Motor magazine had an Albatross on test in 1955 ('The Flying Boat', 8th June edition) finding it "a ready starter and at all times delightfully easy to handle. The acceleration to maximum speed is of sports-car order and the waterproof leather upholstery and toughened glass vee screen add greatly to the general comfort. The Albatross at £550 is not a cheap boat, but in view of the extremely high standard of workmanship and outstandingly stable design there will be many who will consider so useful a craft a very sound investment".
This Albatross Super Sports Runabout is one of 607 of its type produced between 1956 and 1959. It is one of the two owned by HRH the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. In 1956, Buckingham Palace returned HRH Prince Philip's Albatross for its first service; instead, Albatross Marine proposed that the Duke receive their new Mark III model. The Duke accepted and Albatross Marine's managing director Bruce Campbell presented the boat offered here to him. The Albatross was carried on the Royal Yacht Britannia in its heyday and in 1967 was moved to the Balmoral Estate where reputedly it was driven by the late Princess Diana. In 1957 it was famously photographed at Cowes with the eight-year old Prince Charles seated in the passenger seat, and this image was used 64 years later in the 'thank you' card issued by the Prince in response to the countless messages of sympathy received following his father's death in 2021. The Albatross was decommissioned in 1987 and is offered in good un-restored condition, retaining its original Ford 100E engine. On file are copies of correspondence from both Albatross Marine and Buckingham Palace. A wonderful opportunity a to own a stylish and potentially highly useable piece of Royal memorabilia.