Leisure Yachts were first built in 1967 by Cobramold in Stanstead, Essex. Managing director Brian Meerloo introduced the original Leisure 17 at the 1967 London Boat Show. Designed by Arthur Howard, the 17 foot pocket cruiser featured a large cockpit, cabin with four berths, small galley and a portaloo. Ready to sail, the Leisure 17 was yours for £500 - same price as a BMC mini.
The Leisure 17 proved well balanced, light on the helm, sailed very well and were/are superb “starter” boats. The Leisure 17 was produced for 29 years from 1967 to 1995, probably the longest production run of any UK trailer-sailer yacht.
Cobramold built the boats until suffering liquidation in1980. Brinecraft took over the moulds and continued production until a catastrophic fire in 1990. Over 3,400 Leisure 17’s were built but with the loss of company records, exact numbers are unavailable.
Remarkable, long distance, single handed voyages have been undertaken in Leisure 17’s. German seaman John Adam crossed the Atlantic to Antigua in 1968, leaving the UK from Poole and stopping over in the Canary Islands. More recently in March 2012, Turkish sailor, Noyan Culum, left Bodrum in Turkey and sailed single handed in 8 months to Plymouth in the UK, via Gibraltar.
In 1970 Cobramold produced the Graham Caddick designed Leisure 22 and continued production until 1974/75. The L22 featured 5ft 8in headroom, a proper galley, dinette area and toilet compartment, It proved very popular in Holland around the ports and marinas of the Zuyderzee (or Ijsselmeer). Over 200 were built and long voyages have also been reported in these very sturdy craft.
In 1973 Frank Pryor designed Cobramold’s second biggest seller, the Leisure 23. With 5ft 8in headroom the saloon seemed huge for a 23 footer and featured a good port side galley with a dinette to starboard (which converted to a double berth). Both outboard and inboard engines were offered. Around 900 were built. Founder Brian Meerloo reckoned the Leisure 23 had the best sailing qualities of them all and loved sailing his L23, Last Minette.
In 1975 Brian Meerloo designed the modern “Wedgie Look” cabin tops for the L17 and L23 - the “SL” versions. Also in 1975 Horst Glacier designed the Leisure 20, principally for the German and Dutch market where inland waterways had a 20 foot restriction on “leisure” craft. Some 250 Leisure 20’s were built from 1975 to 1984. 1977 saw the launch of the Frank Pryor designed Leisure 27. With 6 foot headroom throughout and a generous beam (9’2’’) the L27 offered outstanding accommodation for a 27 footer and over 120 were produced. Germany wanted a yacht with a larger cockpit and the Leisure 29 appeared in 1980 but only 30 were built before Cobramold went into liquidation.
In 1980 Brinecraft took over the production of L17’s, L20’s and L23’s and at least one Leisure 26 was produced, from moulds bought from Oyster Yachts. Brinecraft continued successfully for ten years until the dreadful fire in 1990. Production continued for a time on re-built Leisure 17 moulds until around 1995 in Germany and Poland.
A new builder, Cory Yachts International Ltd. subsequently continued the Leisure brand with new designs for a Leisure 18 and 24. Sadly very few were produced and due partly to the exorbitant cost of meeting the RCD [Recreational Craft Directive]; they have withdrawn from the market.
The yachts were sold mainly in the UK, although a few yachts were also built for the European market, particularly Holland and Germany. Approximately 4,500 yachts were built in total, and most of these are still sailing.
Click the link for a fully detailed history of Leisure Yachts.