Sam Newington 1935-2017
The key boating stories you need to read Fairline luminary dies peacefully at home
Sam Newington, the man who built Fairline into one of Britain’s leading boat manufacturers, has died peacefully at home aged 82.
The family’s involvement with the marine industry began in 1964 when Sam’s father Jack Newington converted a gravel pit in Oundle, digging a trench to link it to the River Nene. Oundle Marina was created, a small inland waterways and marina business that hired and repaired boats. In 1966, Jack bought a mould for a 19ft glassfibre boat. It became the Fairline 19, and Fairline was born.
Sam pursued his own career as a fighter pilot in the RAF before joining his father’s frozen food business. When that was sold, he studied for an MBA at Columbia University in New York before returning to the UK as a management consultant for Mckinsey. He joined Fairline in 1970. At the time, the company had just 21 employees.
A keen boater who had made many cross-channel trips, Sam brought both his management acumen and love of boating to bear, introducing a 25-footer and then the 23 Holiday, which went on to sell 600 units.
Fairline grew rapidly under Sam, and the Fairline 40, launched in 1977, allowed the company to expand into Mediterranean markets. By 1979, the company was employing 140 people and turning over £5 million a year. His management style was very hands on. The Targa range was created directly as a result of Sam and his wife Briony’s boating experience. With a holiday home in the South of France, the couple naturally kept a Fairline there, a 26ft Sunfury. It was their need for a larger boat that saw the creation of the hugely successful Targa 33 in 1984 that went on to sell over 350 units and spawned the entire Fairline Targa genre.
In total, Sam and Briony owned 18 Fairline boats, testing a different model each year by taking it to their holiday home. Everyone at Fairline knew when they had arrived as faxes would start coming in detailing changes that Sam wanted making.
In 1986, Fairline was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, International Trade and in 1996, Sam retired, selling Fairline Boats to South African Graham Beck (who also owned Princess Yachts International) having run the company for 26 years.
More recently he invested in English Harbour Yachts, the company set up by former Fairline design director Adam Greenwood.