Magazine article The Spectator

Art on Water

Magazine article The Spectator

Art on Water

Article excerpt

On board S/Y Bushido

If a boat can be called a work of art then surely ones designed by William Fife qualify him as the Degas of yacht construction. Fife was a Scot, but unlike fellow Scots such as Blair and Brown, he handed down beauty, not misery, modern maritime Parthenons rather than debt and anarchy. No one has ever got near him as far as art on water is concerned.

Cambria, Altair, Mariquita, Moonbeam, Fintra, Viola, Nan of Fife, Mikado, Jap , I could go on. My son sailed on Mariquita as a deckhand while she raced in classic contests, and has been hooked on beauty ever since. The visual aspects of a sailing boat are like those of a woman. Proportions are all. A beautiful figure cannot make up for a very ugly face, and vice versa. Boats are feminine, and a sheerline, a counter or even the way a deck house slopes make the difference between extraordinary beauty and rather dreary artlessness.

Mind you, Fife was no prima donna. He viewed himself as a practical boat builder whose career spanned 60 years (18571944). I often wonder what the great man's thoughts would be were he around nowadays. Especially when viewing the horrors with which the Russians are showing off their ill-gotten gains. Low-lifes rarely buy sailing boats. They go for the stink pot every time, just as they always prefer hookers to proper girls. Show me a modern superyacht and I'll show you a vulgarian, starting with that bum who owns Chelsea.

But I digress. Why think of ugly things and people while living the life aquatic on board Bushido ? As I've told you previously, Bushido came about when I got tired of looking at cows. George Nicholson introduced me to an Italian designer who drove up to Switzerland to meet me. We chatted amiably for a while about boats, then I had one too many and began telling him stories.

He also got drunk. The next time we met was in Monte Carlo with my captain and my son. The designs he showed us were a disaster. The boat looked like a pregnant penguin, whereas I wanted a Fife. John-Taki, although severely dyslexic, took a pencil and drew the overhangs I wanted and the deck house. As did the captain, a Frenchman who at the last count had had five wives and was working on a sixth. (I have another captain now, a wonderful Aussie whose knowledge of the sea compares to my first captain's familiarity with a woman's anatomy. ) After that it became a matter of time.

Would the boat be ready for the 2004 Olympics in Athens or not. I planned to arrive with full sails, swing around the yacht club, then head for Vouliagmeni. …

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