Nautica Digitale
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Over one hundred boats participated in the Ligurian Meeting that ended with a big party for Olin Stephens on board his "Dorade"

Text and photographs by Paolo Venanzangeli


Olin Stephens, the legendary boat designer, was with no doubts at the center of attention at the 10th Imperia Classic Boat Meeting. In 1929, he designed "Dorade", universally considered to be the first modern sailing yacht, in order to race with his brother Rod. Olin, on board "Dorade", won the Transatlantic Race in 1931, the Fastnet in 1931 and 1933 and six editions of the Swiftsure Regatta in the 1940s. The "Times" described her as "the most prestigious small yacht for ocean racing ever built". Later she was owned by two different owners and, when she was bought by the Italian entrepreneur Giuseppe Gazzoni Frascara in 1996, she was overhauled by the Cantiere dell'Argentario yard. The aged Olin, of the Sparkman&Stephens New York-based studio, really deserved the standing ovation during the prize-giving ceremony.

After being awarded the City of Imperia Cup for first place in his boat's class and the special prize for main participant in the meeting, he returned to his boat to celebrate with his crew. "Dorade" was one of the most beautiful boats but not the only one. The oldest participating sailing yacht "Avel" was worth a look. This cutter was designed in 1895 by Charles Nicholson and was launched one year later by the Camper&Nicholson yard. After four years of absence, she is back: she won the race in class 1 and was admired for her elegance that very well combined with the classic clothing of her crew. This year's novelty, on the Classic Boat racing scene since springtime, is "Linnet", one of the 18 one-design boats, designed by Nataniel Herreshoff for the members of the New York Yacht Club who wanted a small fast boat. She is one of the few boats of this type left and was superbly renovated by the Cantieri dell'Argentario yard for Patrizio Bertelli who, even though is at the head of the Italian challenge of the next America's Cup, is very fond of classic boats. "Mariette", the schooner designed by Herreshoff in 1912 and the first leisure American sailing yacht, participated in the Regatta in class 2. During World War II, the US Navy commandeered her to sight submarines and, because she was strongly built, survived a hurricane in Martinica with no serious damage.

In the past, Rizzoli owned her and today Perkins, for whom she was accurately refitted by the Becconcini Yard of La Spezia, owns her. Her rival, not only in regattas but also from the esthetical point of view, is "Orion", designed and launched in 1910 by Charles Nicholson. "Sulvana" changed name four times and, in 1930, was finally baptized "Orion" by the Spanish owner Miguel de Pinillos. After dismasting, she was transformed into a staysail schooner and recently, during her restoration, she was fitted with her original gaff rigging. She is with no doubts one of the most famous boats of the Mediterranean Sea.

Another boat that needs mentioning is "Tuiga", owned by the magician William Fife. This cutter was commissioned by the Duke Medinacelli in order to race against a similar boat owned by the king of Spain. She won the Fastnet in 1935 and was renovated by Duncan Walker. "Tuiga" was owned by the Yacht Club of Monte Carlo in 1995 and was very dear to the Grimaldi family. "Sumurum", also owned by William Fife, was launched in Fairle by the designer's family yard. Lord Sackville offered her to his wife as a present; because she liked theater plays she named her boat after the princess of a famous contemporary play. After seven different owners, "Sumurum" was bought by her present owner in 1982 and was completely renovated by the Wayfarer Marine yard in Maine.

In addition to the beauty and the history of the above-mentioned boats, "Tomahawk", "Avel", "Mariette", "Eileen", "White Wings", "Dorade", "Petite Lande", "Mai Più", "Golondrina", "Nina VII", "Capricia", "Calypso", "Lisa of Latour" and "Voloira" won the race each in their own class.

The Imperia meeting showed how much the public at large enjoys and appreciates Classic Boat Regattas, most especially when boats may be easily admired and when local organizers combine firecracker shows and music with races. These meetings may attract hoards of spectators like soccer matches and the Imperia Meeting is a perfect example: thirty thousand people participated in the closing ceremony, to the satisfaction of the two sponsors, Olio Carli and Pasta Agnesi.