Gucci’s Creole

Creole, the largest wooden sailing yacht in the world, currently owned by the Gucci family, has a long and interesting history full of racing, luxury, public service, and intrigue.

As many of our readers will know, she lives most of her life these days in Astilleros de Mallorca, where she is lovingly maintained throughout the year.  However, this beautiful wooden mega yacht is not without her dark side.  In fact, some say this gorgeous sailboat is cursed.

 The story of the yacht Creole begins with a man by the name of Alexander Smith Cochran, who inherited an estimated $40 million from earnings of the Alexander Smith Carpet Company, the largest carpet manufacturer in the world in the early 1900s.  After graduating from Yale, the young American took up yachting as a way to pass his many leisure hours in between charity events.  The man known as the “Richest Bachelor in New York” bought a yacht, began competing at regattas, and became well known around the New York Yacht Club (and later in Europe) as an enthusiastic sailor.  His crews competed in and won many races on various sailboats, including his favourite, an America’s Cup yacht named Vanitie.  In his early 50s, Cochran set out to build the ultimate boat for himself, assigning the task to the well-known yacht designer Charles E. Nicholson.

 Built under the name Vira, the sailboat was to be Cochran’s pride and joy.  Unfortunately, by the time she was launched in 1927 her owner was suffering badly from tuberculosis, and he could hardly get himself from bow to stern without a coughing fit overtaking him.  None disputed the beauty of the sailing yacht as she was launched in Gosport, but many speculated on her future, as the events that transpired on the day of the yacht’s christening were seen as a foreshadowing of misfortunes to come.  Being too ill to break the champagne on the prow himself, Cochran enlisted his friend Fred Hugues to take the honours.  Unfortunately, Hugues had to try three times before he was finally able to break the bottle, and this was seen as a bad omen indeed among the yachtsmen in attendance.

Cochran was impressed by the Vira, which was the largest yacht ever built at the Camper & Nicholsons shipyard at the time.  He thought the three masts looked a bit too tall, however, and ordered them cut several times, until the schooner resembled more of a motor sailor than the grand sailing yacht Nicholson had designed to speed through the water with a minimum of crew.  Cochran also changed the keel on the yacht, and added more ballast inside, in an attempt to compensate for the shorter masts.  These poorly conceived adaptations caused the sailboat to roll uncomfortably at sea, and to perform poorly in general.  Because of this, the boat soon lost its appeal for Alexander Smith Cochran, whose health continued to deteriorate until his death in 1929.

 The Creole changed hands in 1937, when she caught the eye of Sir Connop Guthrie.  A more traditional sailor, Guthrie brought the Creole back to the Camper & Nicholsons yard, where they lengthened her masts, dumped the extra ballast, restored her original keel, and finally brought the boat back to the svelte form that her designer had originally intended.  Gutherie was thrilled with her sailing characteristics, winning many regattas around the British Isles.

 Unfortunately, just as the Creole was earning her crown as the queen of yachts, war struck, and in 1939 she was drafted into service as a lowly mine-hunter.  Renamed Magic Circle, the sailboat traded in her dress whites for coveralls, serving the Allies off Scotland throughout the Second World War.  When her tour of duty ended, she was returned to the Guthrie family, nearly unrecognizable

Once again named Creole, the yacht continued to deteriorate until Stavros Niarchos purchased her in 1948.  Seeing her in the rough, the Greek yachtsman was determined to restore the boat back to her former glory.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars were sunk into the yacht over many years, as each detail was gone over by ‘The Golden Greek,’ as the bitter rival of Aristotle Onassis was known.

Unfortunately, Niarchos’s wife was then found dead from an overdose of barbiturates, and the strange circumstances surrounding her demise put the tycoon very much in the public spotlight.  It’s said that he never sailed the Creole again after this.  Then, after his next wife (formerly the wife of his rival Onassis) also died of an overdose, the tycoon decided to part with the Creole once and for all, selling her to the Danish government in 1977, where she was used as a training ship until they could no longer afford the upkeep.


Then in 1983, the yacht caught the eye of a man of vision, couturier Maurizio Gucci. He pledged to return the Creole to the luxury for which she was designed.  Once again the boat was brought into the shipyard for a complete refit, as Gucci spent a vast fortune, and over six years, to see the beauty of this schooner restored inside and out.


Always admired and loved at ports and quays around Europe, this incredible and historic vessel once again spread her wings to become one of the most beautiful sailing yachts in the world – a yacht fitting the Gucci name.  She also stunned sailors at regattas, sailing like a
thouroughbred, and proving herself to be much more than a pretty face.


But the Creole’s curse reared its head once more.  In 1995, Maurizio Gucci was brutally murdered, and his own wife found guilty for arranging the killing. 


Ownership of the Creole passed to Gucci’s daughters, Allegra and Alessandra Gucci, after Maurizio’s death.  Although they still own the yacht she has not been regularly sailed in recent year’s other than last year, when she competed at the Monaco Classic regatta, due to Allegra being five months pregnant and being told that she could not do any heavy work ! The sisters have normally chosen to sail the much smaller of Gucci’s yachts, the 59’ 9” feet Camper & Nicholson  Avel, which is a frequent competitor in classic regattas around the Med. Allegra and Alessandra are determined to keep their father’s spirit alive by keeping and sailing their two beautiful yachts, and competing in the series of classic regattas.







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