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Tuiga: the flagship of the Yacht Club de Monaco

‘Spirit of Tuiga’, a club which unites all those in Monaco who are passionate about yachts

Contemporaries of King Alfonso XIII of Spain did not consider him to be a particularly good politician, but few could teach him much about sailing. In 1909, when he was only 23 years of age, the greatgrandfather of current Spanish King Felipe commissioned a yacht from probably the most famous boat builder in Europe at the time: William Fife in Fairlie, Scotland. The vessel was to be constructed in compliance with the so-called International Rule in the 15mR class and measuring around 20 metres in length. Needless to say, he named the yacht Hispania (D5/ESP1).

Not to be outdone, the Duke of Medinaceli, a close childhood friend of Alfonso, commissioned another 15mR yacht from Fife in the same year. The Tuiga (D3) was completed in just six months. The two friends were keen to test their strengths on the water, although it is said that the Duke wisely allowed the king to pass first over the finish line every time in order to avoid any personal conflict.

The two vessels soon went their separate ways. Like two other sister vessels from the Fife yard – the Mariska (built in 1908, D1) and The Lady Anne (built in 1912, D10) – they disappeared from records for several decades. These four yachts are the only remaining examples of a total of 20 vessels that were built according to the 15mR rule, although it cannot be ruled out that others will re-emerge somewhere in the world, buried in a riverbed or a remote harbour basin.

Meanwhile, Albert Obrist from Basel, a manufacturer of aluminium tubes and covers as well as a passionate collector of Ferrari sports cars, acquired a liking for old yachts and restored the Fife schooner, Altair, at Fairlie Restorations near Southampton, England. When the yacht was relaunched in 1987, Obrist and other experts were so enthusiastic about the project that he immediately started to seek another vessel in need of restoration. He eventually found what he was looking for in Cyprus, and brought the totally decayed hull of the Tuiga to the yard in England, where it was restored under the supervision of Duncan Walker and relaunched in 1993.

Many say that the Tuiga is one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, sailing yachts that has ever been built because of its clear lines, harmonised proportions and simple deck layout with only block and tackle pulleys rather than winches. It is no wonder that the list of skippers includes Prince Albert of Monaco as well as famous sailors such as the Eric Tabarly, multiple America’s Cup winner Dennis Conner, and world champion and professional sailor Paul Cayard. A class association for 15mR yachts has also been established in order to promote unified rules for races, among other things.

Since 1995, the Tuiga has been the flagship of the Monaco Yacht Club and is moored opposite the new club building. Although surrounded by gleaming mega yachts in Monaco port, its beauty and history still enable it to stand out proudly from the rest. For anyone that would like to see the boat sailing, the Tuiga is a regular participant in most of the classic regattas on the Mediterranean, including the events in Monaco, Cannes, Antibes, and the season finale in St Tropez. Such intense activity demonstrates just how committed the YCM members who crew Tuiga are to the yachting tradition. Their interest has never wavered, like that of their president, Prince Albert II, who often takes the helm as have Tabarly, Cayard and Conner. It is this enthusiasm that led to . 

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Gerhard Standop