George Nicholson

George Nicholson

4 MINUTES READ

Speaking about the early days of yachting industry George Nicholson gives us a rare opportunity to describe the pre-yachting era which took place six decades ago. And he speaks about Adriatic as one of his favorite areas

George Nicholson is not only part of history of the yachting industry, he actually invented and partially wrote it. He first came to France exactly sixty (!) years ago starting unbelievable trend which we know as yachting of today. His role and knowledge of yachting are simply one of the founding stones of this now global industry. What many don’t know is his connection with the Adriatic area where he was commonly seen especially in Croatia, and he also played a key role in the establishment of today’s Porto Montenegro. With the help of respected president of Adriatic Yachting Association, Mr. Nizar Tagi, who made his first steps in yachting working together with Mr. Nicholson, we had a chance to talk with this legendary personality for our very special SuperYachts issue.
You started a yachting operation in sixties, can you give us a glimpse how was it in those days?
I sailed with Robin Aisher in the 1960 Olympic Games in his 5,5-meter Yeoman. I had been sent to Cannes by my father in October 1959 to see if I could persuade the larger yachts to return to the C&N Southampton yard for the winter and for their refit work in the spring. Although most of the larger yachts had by then been bought by people who were not British, or taxed in the UK, they had mainly gone to the Mediterranean, but had kept their English captains. This was my job after I returned from the 1960 Olympic Games. The sailing was held in the Bay of Naples. Soon I discovered that life in the South of France was far more attractive for the Captains than life in England. They were well-paid compared to the local French and most soon had mistresses and an agreeable lifestyle. In 1961, my father asked me what I thought C&N should do. I did not hesitate and told him that as we could not beat them we should join them. We formed Camper & Nicholsons International at the end of 1961.
Many people speak about what has changed since, but our question is what is the same, if anything?
Little by little a lot has changed. Firstly, the French customs started to crack down on all French yacht owners operating under a non-French flag. This finally led to a moratorium that lasted some ten years whilst the ECPY negotiated commercial and private yacht registration. I think that this system is largely still in lace today. Commercial registration attracted the attention of the authorities, mainly in England and France, and led to the tightening of captain and crew qualifications that we are familiar with today.

George Nicholson
Mr. Nicholson steering Marigold built in 1892 by C&N to victory in St. Tropez

French Riviera is the center of yachting of today, how was it back then? Do you feel a little bit French today?
When I came to France there were no new yacht harbors. The yachts were there deep in the only safe harbor, which was the port in Cannes. The only ports were the small port in Antibes where there was a shipyard run by Jacques Auniac, the port of Villefranche where the drydocks were run by Bernard Voisin and Monaco which was unprotected and very unpopular in the winter. The port in St. Jean, Cap Ferrat was very small and St. Tropez totally exposed to the Mistral. The only yacht of any size that spent the whole year in St. Tropez was the ketch Blanch Neige.
You were often visiting ex-Yugoslavia, what was the reason and what places did you like most?
The Adriatic east coast, the old Yugoslavia, was still communist. The islands and most of the mainland were completely unspoiled. The communist holidaymakers used to come from eastern Europe and stay in the northern part while we discovered Skradin and its waterfalls. We were the first larger yacht ever to visit Skradin, and later I arranged with Emilio Azcarraga to give a complete satellite TV installation to the village. It was all sent from France, and the engineers to install it. Brioni, Tito’s private island, was completely abandoned.
Are there some special people you remember from this area?
I remember well the Petrović family from Skradin. There were three brothers and they had the only restaurant and a fishing boat. On the way up to Skradin one to across an inland lake. We found lots of old amphoras and clay pipes whilst swimming there.
You knew very well Mr. Peter Munk – can you say a bit about that, and what was your role in his project of establishing Porto Montenegro?
The late Peter Munk was a serial entrepreneur. His main business was Barrik Gold Corporation, but one of his specialties was re-developing abandoned military bases. The no-longer used military naval base in Tivat fell into this category. I was asked to go with him to Tivat to take a look at the naval base. Although Montenegro was still quite undeveloped the base was superbly placed and totally protected from bad weather. Peter Munk bought it, and it is now Porto Montenegro.
For whom can you say that was your biggest competitor?
When I first came to Cannes, the Agence Glemot dominated the Cannes old harbor. They also had a small office in Monaco. Glemot, and several other smaller French agencies dominated the Quai St. Pierre. By the early 1970s, C&N International was the dominant force. I had a French assistant, Marco Senesi, who became the central figure in yacht charter.
What is your passion (sailing?) and can you say a bit about it?
Small sailing boats have always been my passion. I started in 12ft National dinghies with my brother Peter whilst I was still in England and we won the Burton Throphy. My father had the Phoenix and later a South Coast One Design (SCOD). I had a Dragon for about seven years and always sail a Tofinou when we go on holiday in Greece which is every September for the last 17 years or so.
At the end, what is your advice for Adriatic as relatively undeveloped yachting destination?
The Adriatic is still one of the best cruising areas in the world. Combined with Greece, these two areas for me are unbeatable. The Adriatic is better for motor yachts whilst Greece is fun for sailing, especially when Meltemi wind is blowing.

Photos by Bobby Billam

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
ISS Yachts testing Yachting

ISS Yachts: Try in Croatia a breakthrough solution in the charter industry

The ISS Yachts team will demonstrate the operation of the system live on a boat in chosen marinas in Croatia. That way industry professionals will …

CEO SeaNet Europe Matty Zadnikar 01 Yachting

Introducing new Custom Yacht Ownership concept

After four years in business, SeaNet Europe offers Custom Yacht Ownership, a concept which has evolved from their core business of co-ownership. The tailor-made solution …

Iva Dekaris Yachts Croatia Interview Portrait 01 Interviews

Professor Iva Dekaris: Eyes Wide Shut

We talked to the medical director of the Svjetlost Eye Clinic and president of the European Eye Bank Association professor Iva Dekaris about latest surgical …

Iskra Shipyard Sibenik Shipyards

Iskra Shipyard, largest refit shipyard in Eastern Adriatic

The greatest value of the Iskra Shipyard are its 180 highly skilled workers, specialists for everything a hull, engines, electric systems, electronic systems and equipment …

Ivan Jurisic 07 Interviews

Ivan Jurišić: Croatia has a huge potential

The only Croatian Captain on the crew manifest of Ocean Victory, one of the largest yachts in the world at 140 meters Native of Baška …

Nena Kriska 02 Interviews

Nena Kriška

Miss Kriška walked the deck of yachts big and small – and biggest. Born and raised in Split, she has built an impressive career, and …

Arcadia Sherpa Drone View 01 Yachting

A new Arcadia Sherpa owner’s suite has been launched

Ten years on, Arcadia Yachts is still expanding worldwide. Further confirmation of this came with the launch of the ninth Arcadia Sherpa in owner’s suite …

Marex 330 Scandinavia Render 01 Yachting

Marex 330: Benchmark of Scandinavian family boats

The Marex 330 is designed as a smaller version of the popular Marex 375 and to be the next edition of the former Marex Scandinavia. …

Blue Kotor Bay View 01 Travel

Blue Kotor Bay: Luxury with wild beauty signature of Montenegro

Blue Kotor Bay Premium Spa Resort, categorized with 5 stars, is completely renovated and rebranded hotel which was formerly known as a hospitality facility for …

Benetti FB 272 Front View 01 Yachting

Benetti’s Giga Season: FB272 Luminosity and FB277 Lana

Luminosity is 107.6 meters long beauty with a beam of 17 meters. Constructed with a steel hull and aluminium superstructure, the yacht has a gross …

Yachting

Salona S380: First Croatian electric sailing yacht

After months of intense preparations and testing Salona Group has launched the first Croatian sailing yacht with electric propulsion, S380. The yacht has immediately set …

Joaquin Phoenix Portrait 01 Interviews

Joaquin Phoenix: Man Behind the Mask

In the eyes of many colleagues and peers, Joaquin Phoenix is a uniquely talented actor, but more importantly, a pure and kind human being Winning …

Scroll to Top Skip to content