Unique Electric Boat Launched for Henley Royal Regatta

Henley resident, entrepreneur, and Chair of the Prince’s Trust; Jamie Waller launched a unique 31 foot electric motor boat last week for Henley Royal Regatta.

The boat named Clara Belle after Jamie’s two daughter’s middle names was originally designed by Nigel Irens who is best known for a string of record-breaking multi-hull sailing boats.  Nigel in the past few years has turned his attention to motorboats specifically designed for sailors.

Jamie had been aware of Irens’ prototype motorboat for two or three years and always thought it would look great on the Thames. Jamie said, “A friend read about her and thought I would like her but I didn’t have any where to put her until I moved here.   Originally I was going to take to the South of France but I think she’s perfect for Henley.  Jamie purchased the boat and handed it over to Damian Byrne just 8 weeks, who is best known for his work overseeing the build of Gloriana, the Royal Barge for a complete re-fit that included converting her from diesel to electric. The conversion included teak decks, a re-designed rudder, navigation, and cockpit and also a new 48volt propulsion system.

Sailing is one of Jamie’s loves; he recently completed 7500 miles around the Mediterranean with his wife, Madeleine and two young daughters. On Thursday Clara Belle was blessed by Reverend Sarah Nesbitt from Shiplake.   Afterwards Jamie said, “We’ve always had our boats blessed, I think it’s a really nice thing to do.  I wanted a boat for the river that was quiet, big enough for entertaining and beautiful and between Nigel’s design, Damian’s craftwork, and my vision I think we have delivered exactly that. I hope she remains in my family ownership for hundreds of years”.

Byrne commented on the refit Clara Belle has been a very interesting project for us. The new electric propulsion solution is combination of old and new technologies at their best. Using the existing transom hung rudder we incorporated the pod motor, so the boat now has a wooden electric outboard engine and all the noise is in the water.  This particular conversion has not been done before and there were challenges.  The installation offers significant benefits in noise reduction, overall control and manoeuvrability which is important in the narrow river of the Thames. We wish her a long and happy time with her new owner Jamie who had the vision to make these modern upgrades.

Irens commented on the conversion and Clara Belle’s new home on the River Thames at Henley “Clara Belle worked well propelled by her original 14 hp diesel but strangely enough, despite very heavy sound-dampening measures, the sound of the engine just took the edge of what should have been a very easy, slippery ride. Waller’s determination to make the move to electric drive will result in a new life for this trusted boat – especially as the work has been carried out by my old friend and colleague, Damian Byrne a master at his craft.”

We were delighted to join Jamie, Nigel and Damian and other guests to take Clara Belle’s first trip up the Henley Reach during the Royal Regatta.  There were definitely eyes on the stunning boat from the riverside as she glided through the water without any wash or noise.