Sceptre is perhaps one of the most historic and infamous wooden boats in the world of yacht racing. Now owned by the "Sceptre Preservation Society", her condition is restored and cared for, her history as a British yacht secured and preserved within a dedicated partnership, and her future on the water a certainty.
Sceptre's story begins as a dream, in September 1956, of Hugh Goodson, a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron and Commodore of Royal Dart YC, who decided to form a syndicate of twelve to build a challenger of the America's Cup. A 165 Ton 'J' Class boat was the ideal choice of design but neither the funds nor time was available to build a J so the sponsors sought a smaller class.
The design for the challenger was selected from the work of four of the finest naval architects of the time, and, at the turn of 1957, David Boyd, James McGruer, Charles Nicholson and Arthur Robb were asked to submit their efforts for tank testing. After the New York Yacht Club delegation visit to London to thrash out details of the challenge with the RYS in the spring, tank testing was completed and the syndicate accepted the recommendation to adopt David Boyd's 'B' model on July 13.
By October Sceptre was beginning to take shape in Alexander Robertson's Yard at the head of Holy Loch. By the end of the year her 17- ton lead keel was cast, mild steel frames from Millen Brothers of Paisley arrived, backbone complete, alternate steel and oak frames assembled, spruce shelf and bilge stringer in place and mahogany hull planking being laid. In February 1958, the planking was complete, a month later the mast was in place and on April 11 Sceptre made her maiden voyage. Shipped to America on SS Alsatia for the America's Cup series commencing on September 20, Sceptre sadly did not manage to beat Columbia and thus America retained the trophy.
In 1959 Sceptre returned to the UK and was bought by Erik Maxwell who was sure she was capable of more than she demonstrated in the America's Cup race. In order to increase her potential he shortened the counter stern by 3 feet, apparently moved the mast aft to improve balance and replaced her original sails. With a professional skipper on board, Robert Bruce, Sceptre's racing performance excelled in the competitions on the Clyde, and in 1961 Yachting World Annual reported Sceptre to have come first in all her races at Torquay and Cowes in 1960.
In 1961, Sceptre was taken again to the south coast to compete with the existing pre-war Twelves, including Vanity V (BCYC: C012), and her greatly improved speed and performance lead to her overhaul of the 12 Metre, Flica II, in the 25 mile Queens Cup Race course, finishing two minutes ahead.
With the 1964 America's Cup advancing, the UK's challenger Sovereign was launched on the Clyde and trial raced against Sceptre. Her performance was disappointing, however, and she subsequently failed to take the cup, sadly finishing with a larger margin than Sceptre did six years previously.
By 1965 Sceptre was still racing, one year wining 17 races out of 20 entered. After a successful win in America where she thrashed American Eagle in 1967, she returned to the UK and, following her sale in 1972 to Mr King, underwent a number of changes and owners throughout the seventies and early eighties.
Berthon Boatyard was contracted by Mr King to convert her into a cruising boat, but his unexpected death put a halt to all work. In a stripped condition Tony Walker, a metre boat enthusiast, bought her in 1976 and after a further two years of renovation by Berthon she was transported to a shed in Lytham St Annes where Tony worked on her for 9 years. By 1986 the conversion to a stunning cruising yacht was complete, and Sceptre came to the attention of Stuart Carter and other members of the Blackpool and Fleetwood Yacht Club. In order to forestall the possibility of her sale to the USA, a consortium was formed to purchase her - 'The Sceptre Preservation Society'.
Since 1986 and the founding of the Preservation Society, Sceptre has been maintained to charter standards, sailed by a group of owners with some chartering and sail training to offset costs of ownership. In 2002 a second consortium was formed to prevent her sale to an Italian and, in 2003, further renovation and restoration has been carried out to restore her to her original design and condition.
In the last few years,Sceptre has spent several summers on the Solent and more recently on the West Coast of Scotland, where she has taken part in a number of classic and other yachting regattas. She has also provided some exciting charter weekends for long-standing guests and others, who appreciate the special experience to be gained from sailing a classic 12 metre.