William Fife & Sons 125' Gaff CutterMariquita
- Last surviving 19M-J
- Renowned Fife yacht
- Comfortable and fast
- Complete restoration between 2001 and 2004
- Ex Peter Livanos and Albert Obrist
- Exceptional race history
- No reserve
This Fife yacht is the last representative of the 19 M J1 class. Despite its grand age, it appears ready to sail on to the end of a second century, having benefitted from an exemplary restoration.
The destinies of Mariquita and Mariska were inextricably linked. These two extraordinary vessels, reunited in this sale, would not have come into existence were it not for the will of one remarkable man : Arthur K. Stothert. An industrialist from Glasgow, he was one of the finest sailors in his day. He competed in 427 regattas during his career, winning 123 victories and 93 podium finishes.
In 1910, hearing that a new class of yachts had just been established, the " 19M J1 ", Stothert knew straight away he had to be involved, predicting that this would attract the yachting world elite. The facts proved him right, to a greater extent than even he would realise. The class became the forerunner for the future J class, set up in the 1930s for the giant yachts competing to retain (or win back) the legendary America's Cup.
And so our man immediately sold his 15M JI ordered three years earlier. And, being a loyal Scotsman, he went once more to see his neighbour William Fife III. He had at least two good reasons to trust Fife. Firstly, he had won practically everything aboard Mariska (see further on) during the previous three seasons. Secondly and just as importantly, Fife was in the process of finishing, from his own design, the construction of the first 19-metre yacht in history. This was named Corona, having being launched during the year of King George V's coronation.
And so, in planning the construction of Mariquita, he knew the boatbuilder would be able to use what he had learnt from his first experience. Stothert duly set off, full of enthusiasm, to the boatyard in Fairlie, on the banks of the Clyde. He was able to request a sound basis for future victories at the same time as request more individual specifications. In fact he had rather fixed ideas about the interior fittings. The deal was done and the yacht became construction number 595.
The yacht's name means " ladybird " in Spanish. This was in no way an indication of its dimensions: 38.1m in length, with a draft of 3.6 metres and a sail area of nearly 573 metres squared.
From 1911 until 1913 Mariquita joined her playmates Octavia, Norada and Corona. Over three seasons of racing, the crews sailed the seas around Scotland, as well as Cork, Cowes, Dartmouth, Kiel and Le Havre. Victories began to accumulate for Mariquita. However, in 1913, disturbing rumours began to circulate coming from Germany. Octavia was sold. The future of the 19m class was compromised.
Mariquita was sold in 1915. By chance, the buyer, F. Buge, was Norwegian. His country remained neutral during the First World War, and the boat was taken to be kept in a fjord. It was renamed Maud IV and spent five years in calm Scandinavian waters. After the war, it rediscovered the choppy British seas and regained its original name. However, it would be another six years before Mariquita began racing once more. Skippered by its new owners, Sir Liffe and A. Messer, the yacht was entered for various coastal regattas, running in the large handicap class.
With the approach of the Second World War, Mariquita experienced her own descent into hell. The hull ended up in the hands of a river transport company who stripped out the rigging and the 36-ton lead keel. It became a kind of houseboat, stranded in mud at Pin Mill, on the Suffolk Coast.
It was there, in this pitiful state that William Collier discovered it in September 1987. After six months of discussion with the owner, it was bought by A. Obrist and Greek shipowner P. Livanos, both serious Ferrari collectors. In 1991 Obrist set up the classic yacht restoration boatyard, Fairlie Restorations, at Port Hamble on the south coast of England, not far from Cowes. The name was taken from the small village in Scotland in honour of their predecessor and inspiration, William Fife. The boatyard is still in operation today, having restored over 20 classic yachts, mainly Fifes ranging in size from 24ft to 95 ft. Mariquita was duly transported to port Hamble. In the wonderful book on the life of Mariquita that includes the full history of the boat, A. Obrist said: " When you ask a small boy to draw a boat, he will instinctively draw a sail boat with a mast. This was what I did. " Further on he adds : " Once the boat arrived at Hamble, it had to sit patiently for ten years before being restored. I waited for this moment impatiently, as this was my favourite boat and I knew it would become the most beautiful vessel on the sea. We restored it to strict original configuration, incorporating modifications where quality, safety and environmental changes were required. These boats are not intended to be put on display in a museum, but to be sailed. "
Saved by the two aesthetes, the renaissance began in 2001. Mariquita underwent a top-to-bottom restoration at this boatyard, one of the best in the world. Nothing was too good for this yacht. The restoration took three years, finishing in 2004, with no concern to how many hours were spent on the project. The aim was to get as close to the original design as possible, with attention paid to every detail from the fittings on the deck to the interior decoration. Remembering that the first owner, Arthur K Stothert, had very strict ideas on this subject.
However, before the hull could accommodate the interior fittings, it had to be strong enough to support the keel and mast. Total reconstruction was required using the original techniques. Steel frames, assuring the structural rigidity of the hull, were laid with African mahogany boards, 2.5 cm in depth. All structural fastenings were in nickel aluminium bronze. The deck was laid with teak boards studded onto 80 mm plywood panels, ensuring it was completely sealed.
Once the solidity of the hull was assured, attention turned to the interior. This was painstakingly dismantled, and the trusted hands Fairlie craftsmen duly rebuilt the cabins for owner and guests exactly as they had been. Attention was paid to the fact that Mariquita had originally been designed for competition. The original open deck heads were preserved, revealing the structure of the boat. This was in order to keep the weight as low as possible.
A few modern concessions were added. A shower in the owner's bathroom replaced the original sunken bath. The space gained was allocated to the engine room, which was equipped with a Yanmar 315 bhp engine used to carry Mariquita into port, or in the Mediterranean when conditions were calm.
As in 1911, the main interior accommodation features an elegant saloon with dining table, desk and sofa. A passageway at the back leads to the principal cabins, with a single cabin to starboard and another to port. The rear twin cabin has its own access to the cockpit.
Towards the front of the saloon, a more pragmatic approach has been adopted to allow the accommodation of seven crew members and a private cabin for the captain.
The galley has retained its early 20th century style, but efficiently redesigned to be able to feed sixteen to eighteen people, the ideal crew size for this large yacht, during a race.
The boat was ready to take to the water again in 2005. This was the moment that the aforementioned book was published, a copy of which will be made available to any potential buyer. P. Livanos, having taken so much pleasure in the project to resuscitate Mariquita, was not very involved in classic regatta racing, and used the yacht very little. A group of businessmen from London duly got together to buy it, and have now entered Mariquita into the sale at Retromobile.
Mariquita's breathtaking appearance ensured it integrated quickly into the Mediterranean circuit, thanks to the combined effort of William Fife and his talented successors at Fairlie Restoration.
This is a yacht that has always been skippered admirably. During the 2010s it benefitted from the expertise of legendary skipper, Jim Thon, who worked ceaselessly to perfect the art of gybing and tacking. He drew on his experience to write a short book and a copy of this guide was given out to every new crew member coming on board.
The recent results for this yacht are impressive: winner of the Monaco Classic Week, the Régates Royales de Cannes and the Voiles de Saint-Tropez. In 2014, it won the Big Boat class in the Panerai Trophy, and there have been numerous other awards. Artcurial is delighted to present this masterpiece of the oceans, a unique vessel with an outstanding history, ready to carry away the lucky buyer of Mariquita.
Participating in the auction on this lot is subject to a special registration process. If you would like to bid on this lot, please get in touch with the bidding office or the motorcars department at least 48 hours before the sale.
For more information and photos: https://www.artcurial.com/fr/lot-1911-mariquita-william-fife-sons-no-reserve-3980-64
Photos © Ben Wood