Moonbeam III “Dit”
Moonbeam III : designer and first owner
It was in this buoyant climate that the designer William Fife made his mark in the world of sailing, having an unrivalled talent. On the banks of the river Clyde in Fairlie, a small village on the west coast of Scotland, some 400 sailing boats had already been launched by 1858 by the Fife family boatyard business. Their reputation was unquestioned and the business became the reference for informed enthusiasts.
At the end of the 19th century, the London lawyer Charles Plumptre Johnson, son of the Queen's personal physician, moved to Glasgow to enjoy sailing. An eminent member of the RYS and the RTYC, he acquired Moonbeam, designed and built by Fife senior in 1858. This 25-tonne yacht bore a resemblance to the pilot boats, with a straight bow, a large bowsprit and fairly high bulwark, like Partridge designed by Charles Nicholson in 1885. After sailing the boat extensively for six years, Mr Johnson commissioned Frederick Shepherd to build him a new yacht: Moonbeam II, a cutter 17.78 metres in length at the bridge. By the end of the season, however, the owner was dreaming of a modern and fast sailing boat, in keeping with the new regulations of the Royal Ocean Racing Club. He turned to William Fife, the third of that name, who had been in charge of the family business since 1886.
And thus, in 1903, Moonbeam lll was born, combining power and manoeuvrability. A gaff-rigged yawl, it was supremely elegant : with a maximum beam of 4.74 m and a hull length of 24.77m, a clear deck, large sail area and an Edwardian interior of flamed mahogany and upholstered leather. It was " one of the finest of Mr Fife's fast-cruisers " according to Dixon Kemp, who published the details of the design in the 1904 edition of the Manual of Yacht and Boat Sailing. At that time it was called Moonbeam of Fife, so as not to be confused with the designer Shepherd's boat. It was the first in a series of gaff yawls that notably included Valdora, White Heather and Rosamond, which it would race against on many an occasion. Sir Charles Johnson, enthused by the competitiveness and elegance of his new sporty and fast boat, covered nearly 5 000 miles in a short space of time. The success of the first season's racing provided the owner with great satisfaction. At the age of 60, he then returned to the Fife boatyard to order an even larger boat, Moonbeam IV.
Moonbeam in the 20th century
Moonbeam III then had several new owners but was used less, due to the two world wars. The second owner, Fernand Maroni, a Parisian industrialist, bought her in 1920, renamed her Eblis and changed the boat's home port to Brest and then Cannes, where she won the Mediterranean Cruise race in 1927 and 1928. She then passed into the hands of Raymond Philippe at the start of the 1930s, then Félix Amiot, an aviation pioneer, in 1947, who took her to Cherbourg.
In France, sailing enjoyed a revival at the start of the 1960s, due in large part to one man, Éric Tabarly. His constant quest for optimisation and innovation ushered in a new era of ocean records. This period saw the appearance of extreme challenges with yachtsmen giving way to skipper-adventurers. Throughout his career, in recognition of the roots of his favourite sport, Éric Tabarly retained a special attachment to Pen Duick, a design by Fife born of her predecessor, an gaff cutter like Moonbeam III, but smaller. And so, the most demanding skipper of his generation was forever associated with his classic yacht.
In 1971, Mrs Anthony bought and restored Eblis (alias Moonbeam III), and took her to Greece to offer cruises. It was not until 1979, following a cargo trip financed by her new owner, Dr John Poncia, that the boat benefitted from a full restoration. In 1988, a small team of shipwrights in Shamrock Quay, Southampton supervised by Surveyor John Sharp, breathed new life into her, by adapting the boat to new safety standards and rigging her as a cutter that conferred a new and pleasing elegance.
One year later, having regained its original name, the boat was sold by Sotheby's to a Norwegian owner, and then to a French ship owner and member of the Yacht Club de France. He based her in Saint-Tropez where she was kept in the best conditions that respected tradition. Moonbeam III enjoyed moments of glory once more, manned by the best and most passionate crews. In 1998, the Yacht Club de Monaco, which enjoys a great maritime tradition, revived the competitive spirit and organised challenges between Tuiga, the Fife design belonging to Prince Albert II of Monaco, and Moonbeam III, then chartered by the Yacht Club de France. This challenge was later run during the regatta between Cannes and Saint-Tropez.
The elegant gaff cutter began a new life in the Mediterranean and competed in traditional sailing regattas in Saint-Tropez, Monaco, Cannes, Antibes, Porquerolles, Imperia, Marseille and Barcelona. She rediscovered her adversaries from the start of last century and has often had her name engraved on salty trophies. She took part in the 100 years of Pen Duick in Bénodet in 1998, in the Jubilee of the America's Cup in Cowes in 2001 and in the Fife Regatta in Fairlie in 2008.
In 2003, Moonbeam III celebrated her centenary with a regatta between invited friends only, at Porquerolles. Eleven boats joined the party, which took place in a wonderful spirit of conviviality, in an event that continues today, with the birth of the Porquerolles Classic, now bringing together more than thirty sailing boats every year in June.
Between seasons, she is meticulously maintained, with the greatest respect given to the tradition of classic yachts. In 2005, the interior was completely and meticulously re-fitted by the renowned boatyard Fairlie Restorations in The Hamble. Ten years on, she is still in beautiful condition and remains an iconic figure in classic regattas. Her results illustrate her racing credentials: in 2015, she won the Voiles de St-Tropez and the Puig Regatta in Barcelona, and finished second in the Régates Royales in Cannes. Having crossed the Atlantic several times, she has proved herself capable of sailing " a long way from home ", in stormy waters and sustained winds.
With a dragon as a signature, Moonbeam lll, Fife design number 491, sail number 88, is a delicate beast. With a wooden hull, gaff mainsail, majestic mast, never-ending boom, three headsails, remarkable bowsprit, clear deck, her freeboard boasting a beautiful shear tapering to a typical Fife counter, inclined boat's wheel, luxurious mahogany interior...
Ask any lover of classic sailing boats which is their favourite and there is a strong chance that Moonbeam III will appear at the top of the list. Everything is perfect on this iconic and stunning boat, from its hull design, simple and powerful rig, high-quality materials, its history, its racing performances through to its name which sounds like a track on a jazz record. A Celtic jazz record of course !
A living work of art that continues to enthrall both connoisseurs and newcomers, and promises many more unforgettable adventures !
Construction : 1903, Fairlie boatyard, designer: William Fife III
Restoration : 2006, Fairlie Restorations (now Fairlie Yachts) in the Hamble
Home port: Saint-Tropez
Maintained annually at the Monaco Marine boatyard in Cogolin
Crew: a captain, a second and a sailor (all year) and a hostess (7 months per year)
Capacity for coastal sailing up to 24 guests and 10 guests for off shore sailing
Interior : A large salon with dinning table 2 cabins for guests, 4 beds for the crew, 3 bathrooms, kitchen
LOA : 30m / 102ft
Waterline length : 24.7m / 80.9ft
Max. beam : 4,7 m / 15.5 ft
Draft : 3.25 m / 10.66 ft
Mast dimensions :
Boom : 15m / 49.2ft
Bowsprit : 6m / 19.5ft
Main gaff: 12m / 39.3 ft
Total sail area : 430 m2
Main sail : 183m2
Topsail: large 75m2 / small 46m2
Staysail : 55 m2
Jib : 40 m2
Jib topsail : 55 m2
Spinnaker : 360 m2
Hull : pitch pine planking on oak/iroko frames. Ply sub-deck with teak planking
Spars Columbian pine
Blocks : ash
Displacement : 55t
Ballast weight : 19t
Winches : 4 motorised Messmer and 8 stainless 3-speed Lewmar 8
Wheel : mechanical
Engine : Perkins 135 bhp
Fuel capacity (diesel) : 500 litres
Water capacity : 800 litres
Generator and desalinator
Navigation instruments : VHF - GPS - AIS -Navtech- Autopilot