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Mariquita, a century-old 19 metre sailing yacht by William Fife III, on the market again


MariquitaMarquita, the glorious William Fife design, one of the most elegant and historic sailing yachts in the classics circuit, is now incredibly back on the market after more than a hundred years from her launch.
Built as yard n°595 at the Fife and Son yard in Scotland, Mariquita dates back to 1911.
With other three 19m models, Octavia, Norada and Corona, she represents one of the best examples of the Big Class, a precursor of the J Class coming much later in the Thirties.
Mariquita’s launch marked the return of the Big Class race, which had been interrupted by Prince Albert Edward in 1896. She belonged to the industrialist Arthur Stothert  and was originally intended to last for a few seasons’ hard racing. Even if racing only from 1911 to 1913, she enjoyed some of the grandest days of yachting: she proved to be of astonishing quality, and she would have been able to bear much more racing seasons. By the way, the First World War interrupted the yachting entertainment races, and as the owners sold their 19m yachts, the Big Class was over.
Mariquita sailed in Norway and then became a house boat until 1991, when she was moved to the Hamble and restored in 2004 by Fairlie Restorations. Mariquita was restored over two years, as the ravages of time had eaten deep into her structure of steel and Honduras mahogany planking, but at Fairlie’s hands the standard of build and finish surpassed her original launch day in 1911.
Many of the larger racers would become cruising yachts in later life but only a few of these classic cutters have survived and most have now been restored. Mariquita is the only surviving 19 Metre Class yacht and the oldest of only four remaining of the ‘big class’, the others being the 23 metre ‘Astra’ (1928), ‘Cambria’ (1928) and ‘Candida’ (1929).
Displacing 78 tons, Mariquita reaches hull speed at around 12.5 knots and is steered by a small diameter traditional wheel. The weight on the helm is surprisingly high, a far cry from modern steering systems and fingertip control. More than a half of total upwind sail area is taken up by the mainsail and the 71ft main boom is sheeted to the counter deck with a 6:1 mainsheet system hauled by seven crew. Centring the mainboom for a gybe is said to be a humbling experience for the unfit. Once trimmed, a stopper cord is wound around the sheet to take the strain before it can be made up on a bronze bollard. From this the trimmer can ease the sheet when required, and if this all sounds complex, remember there are seven sails to handle and each with its own techniques to master. The contrast with modern boats, equipped with pulpits and guardwires, is extreme, adding to the thrill of sailing a yacht that can only be operated by a highly experienced crew under firm command.
Fife could not have imagined that well over 100 years later his creations would be still draw admiring looks, still be the treasure of owners and raced with the same splendour of their own era.