Challenger Roots


Alden Forum Moderator
Jan 24, 2006
Alden Caravelle 42 / Northern European waters
Now and again there is talk on here about which Alden wooden design our boats stem from. It’s a pertinent question, because patently very little was done to design around any demands of the relatively new construction material – certainly aesthetically. Thus we now see them as true classics - which they are. Nowadays that's their unique desire feature, together with the pedigree they represent.

The typical method of yacht designers with a long lineage was/ is often to first pull out the drawings of the closest recent past design to the one being worked on; no point in reinventing the wheel when the client has been attracted by what you do.

So there should be a design among the 948 Alden designs that precede the first of our cousins, the Alden Challenger (#949), that fits the bill.

The answer has been staring me in the face for a long time, in fact ever since I started my Alden Fiberglass Boats List post, in 2006. But it required the addition of - the now much missed - Niels Helleberg’s great work in defining what the Alden archive contained - during the handover to MIT after the Alden office closed in 2008, one year short of its centenary – and the resulting web site database (a wonderful resource) - to give substance to an early “reply” to my List post from “southport”.

He wrote about the result of his conversations with Niels:

Post by southport » Wed Dec 20, 2006 11:43 pm

… The Specifications were for design No. 937 (typed) and then 949 added in pen(cil). 937 was for a 27'-0" centerboard yawl dated July 17, 1958 initialed D.G.P. From what I received there is an addenda No. 2 to Spec Design 937 which becomes design No. 949 on August 8, 1958- also initialed D.G.P.
It seems differences are small other than a reduction of draft from 4'-3" to 4'0" (which is still really small in my book!). Without going line by line the changes appear to be more cosmetic, but there is a section missing about hull construction, etc. I've wondered if they took a wood hull design and lessened the draft for a fiberglas hull (to compensate for weight) or ??? I'm not at all familiar with this end of yacht design but maybe we can fill in the blanks.
How many 937a-z's are there??? What do they look like??
I've emailed back and forth with Niels Helleberg at Alden and he has been incredibly helpful about any questions. This is one I've never thought to ask. But I will!!
Followed by:

Post by southport » Thu Dec 21, 2006 4:37 pm
… Apparently Challengers have a cousin- the 937 design is wood! 3" deeper draft & 750# more lead. One was built in 1963 for an owner in Aukland, New Zealand…
Things moved fast with the development of the list - which I still maintain and update thanks to great input from owners, past and present – and for some reason “southport’s” comment about Alden #937 got forgotten. Until this weekend when I was looking back at the “replies”, found “southport’s comments and placed 937 into the, now MIT, Alden database site's search engine.

Up came this.

There seems no doubt about it, although the Challenger transom was developed with a little more beam I’d say, and, as "southport" mentioned, she is heavier and deeper - although she seems to be floating pretty light in the photo. (Note that there seems to be a mistake there in that the build date has been confused as the design date.)

So what became of #937, STELLA NOUS, finished in 1964 by T.K. Atkinson of Auckland, New Zealand in for R.K. Jones of Auckland?

Is she still in New Zealand? Still going strong?

The photo at the database (below - click to enlarge) seems recent and would suggest that she is.

So, if that’s the Challenger accounted for, what about the Zephyr, Mistral and Caravelle? Being a centreboarder, the Zephyr is more closely related to the Challenger than the full keel Mistral and Caravelle... But that's for another day. And, sadly, we don't have Niels to ask any more.