Visitors arriving in Cowes should not leave without making a visit to the Sir Max Aitken Museum in the famous pink building, The Prospect on Cowes High Street.
This magnificent 18th Century, Ratsey and Lapthorn sail maker’s loft, was acquired and restored by Sir Max Aitken in 1947. Today, with its traditional splendour, the building boasts Sir Max’s personal collection of historic and nautical artefacts.
John William Maxwell Aitken was born in Canada in 1910, he was the eldest son of Lord Beaverbrooke, the owner of the Daily Express newspaper group. Sir Max was educated at Pembrooke college, Cambridge, where he joined the Auxiliary Air Force, which consisted of sparetime flyers who gave up their weekends and holidays to learn the art of flying different aircraft.
In 1939, Sir Max was flying with the famous 601 County of London Squadron, he fought in the Battle of Britain and was among the lucky few pilots who survived the war. His first mission was over Germany in 1939 and his last was as group Captain of the Banff Strike Wing, flying over Norway, in 1945. He was credited as having 16 victories, 9 probables and having damaged 15 enemy aircraft.
He was awarded the Distinguished Service order and the Distinguished Flying Cross and he was Knighted in the 1940s.
After the war Sir Max joined his father’s newspaper business as a Director of the Express group, he became Chairman of Beaverbrooke Newspaper Ltd on his fathers’ death in 1964.
Sir Max was a keen and able yachtsman. Several of his yachts were built by local boat builders: Clare Lallow’s built Roundabout in 1966, designed by Sparkman and Stevens. Sir Max won more races with this yacht than any of his others; They also built Drumbeat which competed in the Onion Patch race in Bermuda several times as well as many other races.
Souter's built Crusade in which he won Line Honours in the Sydney - Hobart race in1969. That year it was won by Prime Minister Ted Heath in Morning Cloud.
He was a founder member of The London International Boat Show at the Olympia and later with his good friend John Cootes he started the Offshore Powerboat Race, the first being held in 1961.
Sir Max won the Round the Island Race twice and was named Yachtsman of the year in 1978. These are just a few of his yachts and achievements. Many of his trophies are on display in the museum.
The Sir Max Aitken Museum Trust is a Registered Charity that relies heavily on donations and the money raised from visitors.