The pre-registration of the big three-master Xarifa raises the bar in the Panerai Transat Classique 2015. In terms of pedigree, she belongs to the extraordinary class of vessels which, since the mid-nineteenth century, have been writing the history of yachting. Her timeless elegance belies a colourful career marked with numerous name changes.
Designed in 1927 by the British naval architect Joseph M. Soper, she was built at JS White & Co’s famous yard on the Isle of Wight for her first owner, Franklin Morse Singer. It was he who named her Xarifa, an Egyptian word which means 'magnificent creation'. Singer, an American yachtsman with a solid reputation for racing, was one of the many children of the fabulously wealthy sewing machine manufacturer Isaac Merritt Singer. The story goes that his mother, the Frenchwoman Isabella Eugénie Boyer, sat for Auguste Bartholdi while he was designing the face of the Statue of Liberty which, since 1886, has gazed benevolently over New York Harbour.
In 1930 the schooner was sold to a British businessman called Edward Mauger who changed her name to Radiant. He kept her until 1936 when she was bought by Baron Louis Empain, a Belgian industrialist who christened her Oiseau Blanc. In this period she crossed the Atlantic several times, sailed up the Saint-Laurent River and cruised around the United States and Europe. Contemporary newspaper articles enthuse about her lavish accommodation and hail her as one of the most elegant and luxurious yachts of her time. She changed hands once again before the decade was out, getting renamed Capitana in the process, and then Georgette, before being requisitioned by the Germans and working as a collier during the Second World War.
In 1951 a famous German scientist and explorer called Hans Hass took her on and restored her original name. He sailed Xarifa around the world, in particular the Pacific and Indian oceans, as an oceanographic research vessel. These scientific wanderings came to an end with her purchase by the Italian multimillionaire Carlo Traglio who, after an extensive refit in the La Spezia shipyard in Italy, made her home port Monaco. Throughout the 1970s the yacht served as the setting for numerous diplomatic meetings and even appeared in a James Bond film.
With such an illustrious piece of yachting history as the Xarifa entering the fray, the Panerai Transat Classique 2015 is consolidating its reputation as a legendary leg in the classic yachting circuit. Expect more great schooners to be signing up for the Lanzarote starting line on 7 January.
Design: Joseph M. Soper
Length overall: 157’ 6’’ (48 m)
Rig: three-masted schooner Event website