EARLY HISTORY. FIVE GENERATIONS
Halvorsen Boats traces its roots to 1887 when Halvor Andersen a farmer launched his first wooden craft near Arendal in the south of Norway. His son Lars followed in his father's footsteps and became a boat builder. After Lars lost his fortune in the sinking of an uninsured sailing ship Nidelv on its maiden voyage, Lars moved from Norway to Cape Town, South Africa in 1922 to start over. Lars built a successful business repairing lifeboats damaged on the voyage to Cape Town, but with five sons, realized there would not be enough business there to support them all.
Lars and his eldest son Harold settled in Sydney in 1924, and the rest of the family arrived in 1925. From 1925 through 1980 the family enterprise built over 1500 craft "[making] the Halvorsen name an Australian byword for quality and style."
During World War II, the Halvorsens built more than 250 boats for the American, Netherlands, and Australian armed forces employing a staff of 350 tradesmen at a shipyard in Ryde, New South Wales. During World War 2, 178 air-sea rescue Halvorsen craft defended Sydney Harbour and Australia. Halvorsen also built 11 110 foot "Fairmile B" cruisers for the war effort. These saw active service in the north of Australia and in New Guinea area. When Lars died in 1936, his eldest son Harold took over as managing director of the newly formed company, Lars Halvorsen Sons, Pty. Ltd. and continued as designer for most of the wartime vessels as well as commercial and pleasure boats. In recognition of his contribution to the war effort Harold was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 2000, while previously Carl Halvorsen had been made a Knight First Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit by King Harald in 1991.
After World War II the company acquired a lease at Bobbin Head located north of Sydney in the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park. The family built a fleet of approximately two hundred hire boats. The hire boat operation was the world's largest privately owned fleet of its time. In 2000, ninety of their classic boats held a regatta on the Hawkesbury River to mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the family in Australia and Harold Halvorsen's ninetieth birthday.
In 1962, Lars Halvorsen Sons, Pty. Ltd. built Gretel the first Australian challenger for the America's Cup. This was the beginning of an era which eventually resulted in the wrestling of the "Auld Mug" from the New York Yacht Club by Australia, after 132 years by Australia II.
SYDNEY TO HOBART
In 1963, 1964, and 1965, Lars' sons Trygve and Magnus Halvorsen won three Sydney to Hobart races while sailing Freya designed by Trygve and built by Lars Halvorsen Sons, Pty. Ltd. They still hold the record for three consecutive Sydney to Hobart wins.
HALVORSEN BOATS GOES GLOBAL
In the 1960s Harold's son Harvey Halvorsen became the company designer, and in 1975 he formed a joint venture between Lars Halvorsen Sons Pty. Ltd. and Joseph Kong, former General Manager of American Marine Company, in Hong Kong to design, build and market a new range of pleasure boats worldwide. The company was called Kong & Halvorsen Marine & Engineering Company, Ltd. and over the next two decades, hundreds of craft ranging from 30 to 134 ft (9.1 to 40.8 m) were built under the Kong & Halvorsen, Island Gypsy, and Halvorsen brand names. At present over 900 Halvorsen Boats have been built in China and exported worldwide. In 2000, Kong & Halvorsen Marine's 20 year contract with the Chinese government expired, and the factory was closed. However, Harvey and his son Mark Halvorsen continued to build boats by contracting to approved yards where they launched two additional new models, the Gourmet Cruiser and the Solo, a passage maker.
In 2004-05, the Australian National Maritime Museum held an exhibition on Halvorsen Boats entitled Dream Boats and Work Boats - The Halvorsen Story.
Mark Halvorsen has been in the business since 1980 when he sold his first second hand Halvorsen 30' Viking in Sydney. He lived in the USA from 1985 to 1988 where he worked in San Francisco at Halvorsen Yachts and then in Newport Beach . He then moved to Hong Kong where he has been living and working since. He owns Halvorsen Boat Sales in Australia and Halvorsen Marine Limited in Hong Kong. All Halvorsen boats are built under contract for Mark in Southern China and then imported into Australia. He also specializes in the restoration of vintage Halvorsen Boats.
APPEARANCE IN POP CULTURE
A 134 ft (41 m) Kong & Halvorsen Motor yacht called Yecats appeared in the 1987 film Overboard starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. The same boat renamed Attessa appeared in the movie Indecent Proposal starring Woody Harrelson, Robert Redford, and Demi Moore.