Condor Ferries' fast growth throughout the 1990s saw them spiral from being a relatively marginal player in the Channel Islands market to being by far the dominant carrier. With the 2004 consolidation of sister company Commodore Ferries' freight and ro-pax operations under the brand, Condor Ferries now provide the lifeline services from Portsmouth in addition to the fast ferry sailings from Weymouth and Poole. Condor's first vehicle-carrying fast ferry was the Condor 10 of 1993, one of the original batch of 74m Incats. There then followed a rapid succession of Incats of increasing size throughout the decade: Condor 11 (1994-1995, later well-known on the South Coast as the laid-up Cat-Link II and Elanora), Condor 12 (1996-1997, later Rapide) before the company settled on the current pair, Condor Express (1996) and Condor Vitesse (entering Condor service in 1998). Condor 10 survives, more recently being deployed on the controversial link between St Malo and the islands which helped bring about the temporary demise of established rivals Emeraude.

The
Condor Vitesse, unlike purpose-built sister Condor Express, was built speculatively by Incat and was initially named Incat 044, without an operator. To locate her closer to potential charter markets, Incat moved their unused ship to Europe, where she laid up initially in Portland and latterly in Ĺrhus. Finally, in April 1998, the ship found an operator with Condor stepping in to pair her with her sister ship under the present name. The ship was sent on an out-of-season charter to Tranzrail in New Zealand in Winter 1999-2000, under the marketing name The Lynx previously used by Condor 10 on several similar arrangements in previous wnters. The ship has also been well-known operating a summer season joint service with Brittany Ferries with a daily round-trip Poole-Cherbourg run each season since 2001. For this purpose the Condor Vitesse acquired the BF logo painted astern of the Condor markings on her sides (in Brittany Ferries publicity, the Condor logo is either removed altogether or the location and size of the two markings is reversed).
CONDOR VITESSE
Above: Condor Vitesse at Weymouth in January 2004, with dual Brittany Ferries/CondorFerries.co.uk markings. (Picture courtesy David Baker)
Above: At Weymouth in late December 2003.
Below: The central stairway showing the relatively pleasing, open-plan layout of this class of fast ferry.
Condor Vitesse seen arriving at St Malo on 12 July 2004. (picture courtesy David Baker)
Below: Condor now offer a premium Club Class lounge on the Express and Vitesse.
Not her best angle, Condor Vitesse is seen from astern at Weymouth, showing exactly what the word "catamaran" means.
ABOARD CONDOR VITESSE
Above: Plan of the Condor Vitesse's essentially identical sister, Condor Express.
Below: Café Bar servery on one of the sisters.
e-mail: matt@hhvferry.com
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