Hoverspeed Boulogne / Seacat Danmark,
Hoverspeed France / Seacat Boulogne / Seacat Isle of Man,
Hoverspeed Great Britain,
Seacat Scotland &
Seacat Tasmania / Seacat Calais / Atlantic II / Seacat France / Emeraude France
Seacat Danmark looks smart in early morning sunshine, as she slips away from her berth at Dover International Hoverport in May 2001. The stern of Superseacat Three is visible to the left, whilst Shakespeare Cliff looms above the former Dover Western Docks Station which now houses a cruise passenger terminal.
Hoverspeed's owner, Sea Containers, had indicated that they would not use hovercraft for their future fast ferry services. Instead they put their faith into the world's first car carrying catamaran which they branded the 'Seacat'. Built by International Catamarans of Tasmania, the first vessel destined for English Channel service was provisionally named Christopher Columbus. At the eleventh hour she was renamed Hoverspeed Great Britain before claiming a publicity coup by seizing the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic by a 'passenger ship' on the last leg of her delivery voyage from the southern hemisphere in 1990.
She was used on a trial Portsmouth/Cherbourg service which ended in failure as a result of serious technical faults. Although described as a 'wave piercer', she did anything but pierce the waves. In 1991 she made her debut at Dover in the company of modified sister, Hoverspeed France. It had to be conceded that the Seacats could not keep up with the remaining hovercraft in terms of speed. But they were far less noisy and could carry far more cars.
Hoverspeed Boulogne was placed on a service from Folkestone to her namesake in 1992. Seacat Scotland inaugurated the first fast ferry service between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Seacat Tasmania was employed between her namesake and the Australian mainland. There since followed a continual interchange of these five craft between Sea Containers' various international ferry ventures, interspersed with charters to other operators.
Hoverspeed France was used on charter in 1992 under the name of Sardegna Express in the Mediterranean. She returned to the Channel the following years as Seacat Boulogne. In 1994 she moved to the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company as Seacat Isle of Man. Hoverspeed Boulogne disappeared in 1993 to operate as Seacat Danmark in Scandinavia. Seacat Tasmania had a stint at Dover in 2000 as Atlantic II. Hoverspeed Great Britain was the only 'Seacat' to keep a consistent name, although had worked in various far flung parts of the globe.
By the winding up of Hoverspeed in 2005 all five original 'Mark I' Seacats had already been dispersed to new owners.
Christopher Columbus, Hoverspeed France, Seacat Tasmania, Hoverspeed Belgium & Seacat Scotland
Builder: International Catamarans Tasmania Pty. Limited, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
Yard numbers: 23, 25, 26, 27, 28.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 74 x 26 x 2.4 metres.
Brt, Dwt. 3,003, 201.
Engines: Four 16 cylinder, Ruston diesel.
Power: 14,592 kW.
Speed (knots): 35.
Passenger certificate: 450.
Car capacity: 90.
28.1.1990: Christopher Columbus launched.
5.1990: Delivered to Hoverspeed Limited, Nassau. Left Hobart for New York via Rio De Janeiro. Renamed Hoverspeed Great Britain.
11.6.1990: Arrived New York.
19.6.1990: Left New York for Falmouth in attempt the fastest crossing of the Atlantic by a passenger ‘ship’.
23.6.1990: Arrived at Falmouth after 3 days, 7 hours, and 54 minutes, having won the Hales Trophy.
14.8.1990: Inaugurated on first ever fast ferry service between Portsmouth/Cherbourg.
6.1.1991: Service closed after serious technical problems.
2.6.1991: After repairs, deployed on Hoverspeed Dover/Calais/Boulogne routes.
12.1992: Chartered to Ferrylineas Argentinas S. A., Buenos Aires, Argentina.
28.4.1990: Hoverspeed France launched.
4. 1991: Delivered to Hoverspeed Limited, Nassau, Bahamas.
12.4.1991: Left Australia via Mauritius, Djibouti for Southampton.
29.6.1992: Chartered. Renamed Sardegna Express.
1993. Renamed Seacat Boulogne. Folkestone/Boulogne.
28.6.1994: Chartered to Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. Renamed Seacat Isle of Man.
16.3.1995: Chartered to Condor, St. Sampson's, Guernsey. Weymouth/St. Helier (Jersey)/St. Peter Port (Guernsey).
24.5.1995: Douglas/Liverpool, Belfast, Fleetwood, Dublin.
28.9.1995: Laid up at Liverpool.
1.5.1996: Chartered to ColorSeacat K. S., Norway. Renamed Color Seacat Norway.
10.1996: Laid up at Newhaven.
2.1997: Renamed Seacat Isle of Man (registered at Newhaven).
21.5.1997: Douglas/Liverpool, Belfast, Dublin, Fleetwood.
22.9.1997: Laid up at Langton Dock, Liverpool.
21.5.1998: Douglas/Liverpool, Belfast, Dublin.
7.10.1990: Seacat Tasmania launched.
12.1990: Delivered to Hoverspeed Limited, Nassau, Bahamas.
22.12.1990: Chartered to Tasmania Ferry service.
6.1992: Chartered to Hoverspeed, England. Dover/Calais and Folkestone/Boulogne.
25.9.1992: Returned to Australia.
21.6.1993: Dover/Calais and Folkestone/Boulogne.
22.7.1993: Renamed Seacat Calais.
15.12.1993: Chartered to Ferry Lineas Argentinas A. S. Renamed Atlantic II.
12.1998: Laid up at Falmouth after charter expired.
19.5.2000: Left Dover for Ancona. Chartered to S. N. A. V. Renamed Croazia Jet.
14.5.2002: Renamed Seacat France. Dover/Calais.
1.1991: Hoverspeed Belgium launched.
7.1991: Delivered to Hoverspeed Limited.
15.2.1992: Renamed Hoverspeed Boulogne. Left Australia for Europe via Suez Canal to Cowes.
10.3.1992: Arrived at Cowes, Isle of Wight.
18.3.1992: First fast ferry service between Folkestone/Boulogne.
31.5.1993: Renamed Seacatamaran Danmark. Inaugurated fast ferry service between Göteborg/Frederikshavn.
15.3.1994: Renamed Seacat Danmark.
1.3.1996: Chartered to Color Seacat.
21.5.1998: Douglas/Liverpool, Belfast, Dublin.
30.3.2000: Chartered to Silja Line Seacat Göteborg/Frederikshavn.
29.10.1991: Seacat Scotland launched.
4.3.1992: Began delivery voyage via Singapore and the Suez Canal.
30.3.1992: Arrived at Cowes, Isle of Wight.
1.6.1992: Entered service Stranraer/Belfast for Sea Containers Ferries.
10.1994: Winter charter to Q-Ships of Qatar. Operated as Q-Ship Express between Doha and Dubai.
9.1997: Winter charter to Navegacion Atlantida S. A., Colonia, Uruguay. Operated between Colonia and Buenos Aires.
4.2003: Transferred to Dover/Calais for Hoverspeed.
25.9.2004: Withdrawn from service and sent to Sunderland for lay-up.
& Stena Lynx
Condor 10 is seen above resting at Weymouth prior to the start of the 1994 summer season.
Compare with the view below taken in the same place but thirteen years later.
With the experience of the first car carrying Seacats to draw upon, International Catamarans slightly modified the design of these 74 metre long vessels. The first was the Singapore registered Condor 10 and she launched the fast car ferry service between Weymouth and the Channel Islands in Spring 1993. This was the longest route such a vessel had been tried on, and despite her very spartan accommodation, she was an instant success with holidaymakers. St. Peter Port (Guernsey) could be reached in just over two hours as opposed to six hours by the traditional ferries. The author can testify that the seating provided featured bare steel arm rests and crude green or electric blue nylon upholstery! Evidently a lot of expense had been spared in her fitting out!
The sister of Condor 10 was leased to Stena Sealink who took their first flirtation with fast ferries by placing her on the Holyhead/Dun Laoghaire (near Dublin) route as Stena Sea Lynx. She could be recognised from the earlier vessel as she did not feature a dummy funnel. Condor 10 was replaced by a second generation catamaran in 1995 and she was put out for charter work. She is pictured here off the coast of St. Helier (Jersey) in August 1994. Stena Sea Lynx was renamed simply Stena Lynx in April 1996 and initiated another new high speed service, this time on the Newhaven/Dieppe crossing. Here she is seen leaving the East Sussex port with Seaford in the background. She went back to the Irish Sea before her charter expired.
Condor 10 & Stena Sea Lynx
Builder: International Catamarans, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
Yard numbers: 030, 031.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 74.3 x 26 x 2.4 metres.
Tonnages (gross, dead weight): 3,241, 200.
Engines: Four Ruston diesel.
Power: 16,200 kW.
Speed (knots): 35.
Passenger certificate: 582.
Car capacity: 88.
30.9.1992: Condor 10 launched.
11.12.1992: Delivered to Enterprise Trading Limited, Singapore.
11.2.1993: Left Hobart for Weymouth.
5.3.1993: Arrived at Weymouth.
1.4.1993: Entered service for Condor Ferries between Weymouth/St. Peter Port (Guernsey)/St. Helier (Jersey).
21.12.1994: Chartered to Tranz Rail (New Zealand Railways). Unofficially renamed The Lynx.
1.6.1995: Chartered to S. F. Line, Mariehamn, Finland. Entered service for Viking Line, unofficially renamed Viking Express I.
3.11.1995: Chartered to Tranz Rail (New Zealand Railways).
17.5.1996: Chartered to Stena Line for Fishguard/Rosslare.
13.12.1996: Chartered to Tranz Rail (New Zealand Railways).
15.5.1997: Chartered to Holyman Sally Ferries for Ramsgate/Dunkerque.
10.12.1997: Chartered to Tranz Rail (New Zealand Railways).
6.1998: Chartered to Euroferrys, Spain.
9.12.1998: Chartered to Tranz Rail (New Zealand Railways).
7.1999: Laid up at Wellington.
11.9.1999: Chartered to Transport Tasmania, Australia.
26.9.1999: Laid up at Hobart, Australia.
27.3.2002: Chartered to Condor Ferries. St. Peter Port (Guernsey)/St. Helier (Jersey)/St. Malo.
7.2.1993: Stena Sea Lynx launched.
9.6.1993: Delivered to Buquebus International, Nassau, Bahamas. Chartered to Stena Sealink Line Limited.
16.7.1993: Entered service Holyhead/Dun Laoghaire (near Dublin).
1.1996: Renamed Stena Lynx.
30.9.1998: Charter expired.
1999: Renamed Avant. Laid up at Valletta, Malta. Chartered to Virtu Ferries, Valletta, Malta.
6.2002: Sold to Dae A. Express Shipping Company Limited, South Korea. Renamed Ocean Flower.
In this sequence Stena Lynx is caught picking up speed whilst leaving Newhaven for Dieppe in April 1996.