Tommy Sopwith’s Avenger 21
Tommy Sopwith’s 1971 Avenger 21 is for Sale
This is your chance to own a piece of powerboating history.
Very reluctantly I am selling this iconic boat. This unique example of a famous race-bred 1960’s sportsboat was originally owned by one of the era’s most famous powerboat drivers.
It is in almost original condition except for the engine, and just requires straightforward restoration and refurbishment work to bring it back to new, and then you will be the owner of the waterborne equivalent of Stirling Moss’s E-type and much more exhilarating.
Sopwith, son of the WW1 aircraft legend Sir Thomas Sopwith, had this Avenger built as a tender to his yacht Philante V1. It was one of a range of fibreglass replicas of Don Shead’s original race-winning wooden Avenger.
It then became tender to the 1970s powerboat GEE and still bears the gold signwriting on the transom.
I have the full story and documents regarding its ownership after that but will not post these on a public site.
It then languished in a garden for 20 years before I bought it with the intention of bringing it back to its former glory. I got as far as installing a new engine, sterndrive and fuel system and putting it on a new trailer before ill health meant I had to abandon the project, and now, though it breaks my heart I know it should go to an owner who can give it the care it deserves and bring it back to life.
The provenance of the boat is unchallenged.
It was the only Avenger moulded with a recessed transom for the sterndrive, which was necessary to reduce its overall length by 14 inches to fit in the restricted space on Philante’s deck.
It still has the three stainless steel davit lifting points bonded into the hull and down to the keel.
It was moulded with its gelcoat in Tommy’s racing colours of Duck Egg Blue, Navy Blue, Red and White.
It was one of only two Avengers with laid teak decking set in a specially moulded recess in the foredeck, and a teak engine compartment hatch.
There is much discussion as to whether its hull layup had layers of either Kevlar or Carbon Fibre in the laminate, to keep its weight within the lifting capacity of the deck crane. Kevlar only became commercially available in 1975, and carbon fibre cloth not much earlier, so it may have been laid up with woven glass-fibre cloth, or uni-directional woven roving cloth, both of which were in use in 1971, and both give a layup 40% lighter than conventional glass mat, and look similar to Kevlar. However there is also evidence that three Avenger hulls were made in Carbon fibre/grafil, by a specialist racing car moulder, one of which being Sopwith’s. I have not cut a hole in the hull to prove this either way, so make no claims about the construction.
All the ownership information has been confirmed by managers of the Avenger Boat Company at the time.
Originally the boat would have had a 165hp straight six Mercruiser or 160hp Volvo, but this was removed and a BMW jet-drive fitted to make it safer near swimmers. However this proved gutless, and the apertures in the hull were professionally repaired. I have now had a 5.7litre Mercruiser 305 V8 professionally installed on an Alpha One drive with a 23in Solas stainless prop. This has high-rise headers to prevent water flooding the engine on the overrun.
Claimed top speed with 165hp was 50mph. I have not run it at speed so can only estimate a top end of around 60mph.
The boat is almost completely original, with the original seats and blue vinyl upholstery, original windscreen, and the original VDO gauges, compass, nav lights and Teleflex steering. The gel coat is also original. All of these will need renovating or replacing. The gelcoat is scratched but sound, but will probably best be painted.
The boat has been covered up all its time in storage, and the hull is sound.
The original stainless steel fuel tank is still in place, but the fuel system has been replaced in copper pipe, with twin parallel Racor filter/separators.
The cockpit sole is also still in place, but has gone soft so will need replacing. I was going to do this in teak and honey ply to complement the decks.
The original aluminium gunwale capping is scratched and should be replaced, but the section is still available, and this will transform the appearance for the expenditure of a couple of hundred pounds.
The Perspex screen and aluminium frame are original, but will need refurbishing.
I was casting around for an engine that would do justice to the boat, and came upon a 1999 Mercruiser 305 with a small-block Chevy V8 . This had originally been installed in a Searay, but was not properly drained down and winterised one winter, and the block froze and cracked. All the other components were sound, so a new block was purchased from the States by the boatyard and the components swapped over by a professional Mercruiser dealer.
Since then I have run it ashore, and briefly afloat, but not underway. Oil pressure and temperature are as they should be. The original throttle and press-button trim/tilt buttons are still in place, but the latter have got corroded contacts inside so will need cleaning or replacing. As a result we jury-rigged a temporary switch to operate the leg.
It was then winterised, with all the drain plugs removed and the water hoses taken off.
This was two years ago, and one possible downside is that a year ago in the February gales, when I was in hospital, a corner of the cover blew off and rainwater reached the sump. I have not run it since, so will make no claims as to the engine condition, though it should be fine.
If you want to keep the original VDO instruments they will have to be adapted to the new engine, but I also have the instruments and wiring loom from the Searay, which reaches the dashboard, and plugs straight into the Mercruiser.
The boat now sits on a new purpose-made four-wheel SBS 2000 trailer, though I will be selling this separately as a new buyer may have their own.
So there you have it, a piece of history looking for a new home and someone who can bring it up to the standard it deserves, and use it properly.
I have copies of all the original brochures, and statements from original managers at the Avenger Boat Company who confirm this is Sopwith’s boat. I also have an email from Tommy before he died, which helps to explain possible confusion over there being two boats with his name on them, as he also had an outboard powered Avenger as well.
I have no real idea of a value for a boat such as this, as its provenance makes it unique, but I think £15,000 is a reasonable figure for a piece of history, with the trailer extra if you need it. The boat is ashore outside my home in Oxfordshire and can be viewed by request.
Current Price: £15000.00
This Tommy Sopwith’s Avenger 21 Powerboat boat is located in , RG8 *** and is being sold on eBay by .