What is a Nicholson 31?

The Classic Blue Water Cruiser

The design brief in 1975 for the Nicholson 31 was for a small cruising yacht capable of passage making in any condition that could be met by its crew undertaking coastal and deep water cruising. To have the displacement to accommodate its equipment and stores for extended cruising and to provide the necessary accommodations.

That the brief has been met in the intervening years is answered by the voyages made by 31's throughout the world, to so many cruising destinations and countries. To read their logs is to be reminded of their owners and crews remarkable fortitude and seamanship.

Raymond Wall
Nicholson 31 President and Designer.

The Design and Development

This is an authoritative account of The Design and Development of the Nicholson 31 drawing extensively on the knowledge and recall of the key people instrumental in designing and producing this classic blue water cruiser.

The design is tracked from its inception in 1975 through the design phase and into the development phase. There are extensive quotations from the yacht's eminent designer, Raymond Wall (the Nicholson31 Association President) and other members of the Camper and Nicholsons management team. These are supported by the encyclopaedic knowledge of the late Jeremy Lines, who oversaw the yachts production. Until his death in 2018, as the honorary archivist, Jeremy remained committed to all C&N yachts.

The paper was compiled by Allan Trelford, the Nic31 Association founding Honorary Secretary, in 2007. It has been reviewed by Allan and Raymond to produce the February 2021 edition.

Click here to view the full paper.

The Nicholson 31 Association

28 years after the first Nicholson 31 was launched, the Nicholson 31 Association was formed in 2004. A year after buying his Nic31, Allan Trelford, with a nudge from Jeremy Lines, Camper & Nicholsons former production manager, had formed the Association. By the end of 2004, with a committee of four headed by Raymond Wall, the yacht's eminent designer as president, the Association had 29 founding members. There were only 120 Nic31s ever built.

Drawing on the detailed knowledge of Raymond and Jeremy, as well as many other former C&N staff, by 2007 Allan had compiled the authoritative paper The Design and Development of the Nicholson 31.

Allan, the Association's inspirational first Honorary Secretary, has now written a fascinating personal 'diary' of the first twelve years. It is the first chapter of an evolving history of our class association of this classic blue water cruiser.

Members, who are logged in, can enjoy the diary by clicking here. Anyone else wishing to find out more about the Association's early years should contact the Honorary Secretary.

Second Hand Focus: Yachting Monthly 2000

We sailed Duloe, a 1979 example owned by John Bishop, whom we met at the Cowes Classics rally last summer. While obviously a GRP boat, Duloe's kinship to the painted classics around her was equally evident. The pretty sheerline, a gentle curve of her stem, the slight tumblehome in her aft sections, and the businesslike transom-hung rudder puts her in a different aesthetic class to most of today's smaller cruisers.

Duloe has just emerged from a loving refit and her glossy topsides and unmarked mouldings proved the adage that you'll be enjoying he quality long after you've forgotten the price; Nicholson 31s were top-dollar boats in their day. Construction was conventional, hand-laid GRP to Lloyds specifications, with balsa-cored decks and coachroof and encapsulated lead ballast.

C&N made full use of GRP technology, and most of the 31's interior -galley, heads, furniture bases- is made up of moulded modules bonded to the hull. Allied to stringers and frames, this makes for a very strong unit. It would also make for a rather plasticy feel to the interior, but for the extensive use of teak trim and joinery.

At first sight the saloon looks rather snug, but this is down to the settees being brought so far inboard to make room for stowage. She is actually not a lot narrower than most modern 31-footers, in which stowage is usually sacrificed in favour of a more spacious feel to the interior. The settees are fairly short but,being aligned with the boat's centreline, make good seaberths with the aid of trotter boxes under the galley peninsula and chart table. To port, a useful pilot berth faces a bank of overhead lockers to starboard.

There is a vast amount of stowage outboard of and under the settees, and also in the forepeak. Much of this is due to the location of the tankage; the 65-gallon water tank is part of the keel moulding. The 17-gallon fuel tank is under the cockpit sole and batteries are below the quarterberth.

The full report appeared in a 2000 issue of Yachting Monthly and may be available from them.

Sailing Review: Yachting Monthly 1977

With the modern trend of yesterday's racing boats becoming today's cruiser's or cruiser/racers, it was a refreshing change when Camper & Nicholsons introduced the Nicholson 31 as a pure cruiser at the 1976 Earls Court Boat Show. Although at first sight, with her long keel, she seems very similar to her older sister, the ever popular, classic Nicholson 32, she is very much a more modern boat. Unashamedly a cruising boat, owing nothing to rating fomulae and current trends, the emphasis in the design is on comfort and seakindliness, rather than speed (not that she is a sluggard in any way). She is very solidly constructed and has been put together to the standard that one has traditionally come to expect of her builders.

Performance under sail

Conditions at the time of the review sail, although not the most pleasant (cold north-easterly Force 5), were ideal for putting a boat of this type through her paces. Most bad traits would have shown up in these conditions and the Nicholson 31 showed just how much of a thoroughbred she is by no vices and indeed demonstrating many very desirable characteristics for a cruising boat. She proved to be as good, if not better mannered, as any boat I have reviewed for Yachting Monthly.

Under the main alone she could be easily controlled and tacked, ideal for close quarters manoeuvring, and if the helm was left she slowly luffed up, tacked sailed off a little, luffed and tacked again, virtually marking time on the same spot. Ideal for the shorthanded sailor working up for'd or just jilling around. With two rolls in the main and the No. 1 jib we sailed her out into the Solent on a beam reach and she sailed along quite happily at about 6 knots and although she was overcanvased in the gusts there was only a little weather helm - just enough to remind the helmsman that another reef might be needed.

Having put a further three rolls in the main we hardened up on to the wind and it was on this point of sailing that she showed her real forte. There was a very short stopping sea but she kept on sailing, her weight giving her the power to drive through it at a steady 4 knots. She was very well balanced, even when laid fairly far over and she could be left to steer herself for long periods, only luffing up slightly but carrying on sailing. She was surprisingly dry too, with no more than the occasional splash reaching the weather deck and nothing finding its way past the dodgers and into the cockpit. Above all, she gave a great feeling of surefootedness and confidence. A Hydrovane self-steering gear is offered as an option and it should be quite enough for this boat.


The Nicholson 31 is a very worthy addition to the Nicholson range and she easily fulfils her role as a comfortable and easily handled cruising boat of the go-anywhere variety. Everywhere she is strongly built to a very high standard. With a boat this good there has to be a snag and that is her price which makes her considerable more expensive than most boats of her size - but then if you want the best you've got to pay for it.

The full report appeared in a 1977 issue of Yachting Monthly and may be available from them.


Technical Details

LOA 9.32m (30ft 7in)
LWL 7.36m (24ft 2in)
Beam 3.12m (10ft 3 ½in)
Displacement 5898kg (5.8 tons)
Sail area 56m2 (624 sq ft)
Construction GRP
Berths 6
Headroom 6ft approx
Engine Yanmar 2QM20 22hp
Fuel tank 78l (19 gal)
Water tank 200l (65 gal)
Designer Camper & Nicholson
Technical Drawing Nicholson 31