Ferry News

Red Funnel opens its archives to celebrate 50 years of high-speed travel across the Solent

Red Funnel celebrates 50 years of continuous high-speed service between Southampton and West Cowes this year, and to mark the milestone, it has delved into its extensive archives to explore how its high-speed ferries have changed over the years and decades.

Over the 50 years, Red Funnel has welcomed 13 high-speed ferries into its fleet to serve the 11.7 miles route, starting with the hydrofoil Shearwater which entered service on 5 May, 1969, carrying just 54 passengers.

Red Funnel's Shearwater ferry
Red Funnel’s first Shearwater ferry in the shadows of Cunard’ Queen Elizabeth 2

She was closely followed by Shearwater 2 in 1970, Shearwater 3 in 1972 and Shearwater 4 in 1973. Shearwater 5 and Shearwater 6 joined the Red Funnel fleet in 1980 and 1981 respectively and served the Southampton to West Cowes route for almost 20 years.

Red Funnel entered the next phase of high-speed travel in April 1991 with the introduction of its first Red Jet catamaran ferry, Red Jet 1. She was the first waterjet propelled high speed vessel on the Solent and could carry 120 passengers, which was later increased to 138 passengers.

Red Jet 2 followed just two months later in June 1991, while Red Jet 3 joined the fleet in 1997. With an extra 52 seats, she helped to cope with the increasing commuter and tourist traffic.

It was some six years later that Red Jet 4 entered service in early 2003, which saw twice the capacity of Red Jets 1 and 2, with 271 seats and space for two wheelchairs. Red Jet 4 also offered a transformation in terms of ride comfort, speed and low wash, and became the fastest commercial passenger catamaran operating in the Solent.

In 2009, Red Funnel added a further Red Jet to its fleet, welcoming Red Jet 5 into service in the August during Cowes Week. Seven years later, Red Jet 6 entered service after being named by the Princess Royal. Built by Shemara Refit LLP in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, Red Jet 6 marked the return of fast ferry building in the UK.

In 2017, Red Funnel ordered its latest addition, Red Jet 7. At 41.12 metres, she is a sister vessel to Red Jet 6. Marking the company’s second consecutive Island-based ship order, Red Jet 7 was built at Wight Shipyard in East Cowes and entered service in July 2018 after being named by the Duchess of Cornwall.

Today, Red Funnel has three high-speed ferries in its fleet – Red Jets 4, 6 and 7. Each with a top speed of 38 knots, they transport thousands of passengers between Southampton and West Cowes in just 25 minutes and offer amenities including onboard Wi-Fi, hot and cold refreshments and air conditioning.

Fran Collins, CEO of Red Funnel, commented: “2019 marks our 50th anniversary of high-speed service between Southampton and West Cowes. It is fantastic to look back and see the progression both the company and ferry industry as a whole, has made during this time, with all efforts focused on giving our customers the best travel experience possible.

Posted on 27th August 2019 at 11:08 am in Ferry Operators | Red Funnel | Ferry News |

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