William Fife & Sons 125' Gaff CutterMariska
Year of manufacture1908
Boat typeSailing Yacht
- One the four remaining 15M-J
- Same class as Tuiga, the 15M-J owned by the Monaco princely family
- Renowned Fife yacht
- Eligible for all classic regattas
- Extensive restoration in 2009 and meticulously maintained
- Exceptional race history
- No reserve
Mariska, Prince of sailing yachts amongst sailing yachts of Princes
A Fife yacht for sale is a precious rarity. Even more so in the case of Mariska. This 15m J has benefitted from an exceptional restoration, and comes with a rich history endowing it with special prestige.
Visitors entering the galley of the yacht Mariska will notice a copper plaque, put there by the current owner, Christian Niels. On it are engraved the names of all the shipowners dating back to 1908 who have been custodians of this marvellous William Fife III. There is also an image of a dragon, the trademark of the brilliant Scottish architect and shipbuilder. There is a space between the dragon and the last person on the list, left blank for the name of whoever buys and becomes the new custodian of this treasure.
They will be able to write their own chapter in the logbook started nearly 112 years ago by the Scot A.K. Stothert, who was one of the most gifted yachtsmen of his day. He ordered from William Fife III a sailing yacht capable of winning the elite class, known as the '15-metre J'.
This, however, does not signify the length of the boat (which in the case of Mariska is nearly twice that : 27.6 metres to be precise). The number 15 is the result of a complex calculation based on the length of the boat multiplied by the square root of another figure - the sum of the weight of the ballast, the length of the mast and the width of the boat added together. There are other esoteric parameters that can be applied, with various combinations allowed, as long as the final result is 15. This is what characterises this particular class of yacht.
Only twenty examples were built during the short period when this class was at its height, between 1908 and 1917. The boats were identified by the letter D on the main sail. Of the four that have survived, Mariska is D1. It sailed in good company : Hispania belonged to the King of Spain Alfonso XIII ; Tuiga, the flagship for the Yacht Club de Monaco, was often skippered by Prince Albert; and Lady Ann, like her fellow yachts, has undergone an admirable restoration.
It was not long before the first owner began notching up victories, first in Scotland, then in the English Channel between Cowes and Le Havre. This impressive sporting record has remained as part of the yacht's special aura ever since, and is perhaps what helped to protect it during the troubled times that lay ahead.
As was customary at the start of the 20th century, boats were not intended for long-term ownership, and the 15-metre J was acquired in 1911 by another Scot, F E Guest. He, in turn, sold it in 1912 to a third sailor from Scotland, J W Cook.
The following year it was bought from Cook by a German, Carl Krüger, who lived in Gothenburg, Sweden. A second life began for Mariska in Scandinavia, which was fortuitous as the boat was tucked away on a fjord, forgotten about during the two world wars. Which is how it escaped being sacrificed, as others were, as part of the war effort. Once requisitioned, this type of sailing yacht was often dismantled, and the lead from their keels melted down for ammunition.
This is largely why it is so rare to find boats from the start of last century still sailing. And in the case of Fife yachts, the situation is compounded by William's own situation. He was the third William to run the shipyard founded by his grandfather on the banks of the river Clyde in Fairlie, Scotland. Preoccupied by his passions for designing and building boats, he found no time to have a family. When he died in 1938, with no descendants, all activities came to a halt, not just designing and building but also maintaining the existing fleet.
In 1942, Mariska became the property of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club. The country's neutrality during the war provided valuable protection. After the Liberation, the yacht remained in Scandinavian waters for many years. It was not until 1983 when the Dutchman Jacob de Jonge introduced it to the land of canals. In 2001, a second Dutchman, Edgar Hotlbach acquired Mariska and sold it to the present owner in 2007.
The latter has been instrumental in how Mariska is presented today. This stunning racing yacht attracts attention wherever it goes. It is beautiful, wonderfully restored and superbly maintained. What's more, it has been operated brilliantly by a crew composed of the most dedicated and talented sailors.
Under the guidance of the owner, the crew has won well-earned victories, competing in every race in the Mediterranean circuit. Mariska and Tuiga were even the inspiration for a specific 15-metre J championship, the idea of Bernard d'Alessandri, President of the Yacht Club de Monaco. These achievements will remain part of this yacht forever and the buyer is assured of generous support from the current owner.
Mariska has been the centre of the current owner's world for the last ten years, and he has now decided to sell it, to concentrate on other projects. However, his feelings for Mariska have not changed. He has always wanted the best and demanded this of a long-established shipyard in a project that lasted almost two and a half years. " Les Charpentiers réunis ", installed at La Ciotat, was the reference in the exclusive world of classic yachting. Some 25 000 man-hours were spent replacing all the planking, with 45mm mahogany. The transverse members are in steel. The cost of this labour can never be translated into the sale price.
In any case, thanks to this extraordinary work, with a hull made sound once more, the boat entered the water once again in 2009. It is still sound ten years later. Last November, the maritime expert Eric Ogden, an authority in his field, attested to the quality of the re-build, and its durability.
He also gave a very favourable report of the Yanmar 110 bhp four-cylinder diesel engine, indeed it has been thoroughly used. In the Mediterranean, at certain times of year, if you want to arrive on time for the start of a race, it is wise to have this precious extra assistance to hand. It is also extremely useful when entering a port.
During the restoration, the work was supervised by the renowned architectural firm Jacques Fauroux, in Cannes. The mast was entrusted to Gilbert Pasqui, the shipwright based in Villefranche Sur Mer and the wooden pulleys to Dryade, the Franche-Comté workshop who custom-built all the fittings. These two businesses are rare in the yachting world today, ensuring the traditional skills survive.
The North sails benefit from the performance of modern materials with a traditional appearance in the spirit of such boats.
The rest of the equipment (electronic, safety, domestic) reflects the constant search for the ultimate balance between performance, comfort and beauty. The inventory is so complete that the boat could leave the dock immediately and set sail. In an ideal scenario, the new owner would invite five people, and be assisted by two crew members. It would not hard to find such a crew, with so many talented people always attracted to Mariska.
The magazine Classic Boat, in a recent article, compared Mariska to an Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Touring, the only difference being that the boat is unique ! It is indeed a masterpiece in the eyes of any collector who is passionate about classic sailing yachts. It is an exceptional opportunity offered at no reserve !
Mariska can be viewed by appointment only in the port of Saint-Tropez, France.
We advise potential buyers to contact the department to arrange a visit.
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-1908-mariska-william-fife-sons-no-reserve-3980-62
Photos © Carlo Borlenghi