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Studio Faggioni - Yacht Design

La l?gende d'Orion

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Title: La l?gende d'Orion
Magazine: Mer & Bateaux
Issue: 122
Year: 2000
Attachment (pdf/doc): Mer&Bateaux 122-20130530-190211.pdf
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A year ago, Orion - the beautiful schooner launched by Camper & Nicholson in 1910 - had recovered her former stature, with a deck plan and rigging very much the same as the original. Spectators at classic yacht regattas were used to seeing her at the back of the fleet; but at the 1999 Voiles de Saint- Tropez she surprised everybody by being first round the windward mark on four occasions.

Orion is an exceptional sailing yacht. Designed for the King of Spain, who never took delivery of her, she was born under a royal star. Few other yachts from this era still possess 70 percent of their original interior fittings.

In 1966, she was demasted and naval architect, Ugo Faggioni, designed a practical rig, more convenient than the old gaff rig with gaff topsails.

Amazingly, 32 years later, the present owner of Orion commissioned Faggioni to recreate the original rig. The dream became a reality.

The history of Orion

In his book Classic Yachts (Vela d'Epoca, in Italian), Franco Pace notes that it is an old maritime tradition for the most beautiful yachts to be named after stars. Hence Altair, Stella Polare, Croce del Sud (Southern Cross) and, for our story, the constellation Orion. Having reigned as queen of the Mediterranean fleet since 1930, Orion is certainly one of the most beautiful of the "old ladies." She is a yacht with an eventful past, having changed owners a dozen times and her name and flag five times.

She has been through her ups and downs, but for the last decade has been a constant participator and jewel in the crown at classic yacht rallies.

In 1910 Charles E. Nicholson designed and built the schooner Sylvana at the C&N yard in Gosport.

Her first owner was Lt Colonel C E Morgan, who based her in Portsmouth and sailed her under the British flag. We can imagine her surging up the Solent under her gaff mainsail and foresail, with her gigantic boom, her gaff topsails and her three foresails tacked to an 11 m long bowsprit.

This gave her a sail area of around 750m2; now when she is racing it is pushed up to nearly 1.370m2. In those days she needed a crew of 25 to? handle her properly. Nicholson designed her as a seaworthy yacht, built for ocean passages in all weather.

She is slightly fuller in the beam than his usual design of racing yacht, to allow room for a more comfortable interior, but this does give her power to windward. The hull, which has magnificent, sweeping Iines, is of composite construction, carvel-built with teak planking, between 5 and 7cm thick, securely bolted to steel frames. The masts are stepped on the long oak keel which is sheathed with a layer of copper; the ballast keel is made of a single piece of lead. The deck has a light camber, which adds to the yacht's elegance, and the helm is placed far aft, as is usual in schooners, so the skipper can see all his canvas and rigging at a glance.

In 1913, Sylvana was bought by Count Jean de Polignac, a member of the Yacht Club de France, who changed her registration to France and moved her to her new home port in Brest. In 1919 Sylvana became Pays de France, presumably due to the patriotic atmosphere prevailing after the First World War. In 1921, she became the property of Maurice Bunau-Varilla, patron of the newspaper Le Matin, who kept her in Marseilles before bringing her back to the Camper & Nicholson's yard.
From here she was bought in 1923 by a British Army captain, Cecil W P Siade, who re-christened her Diane and kept her in Portsmouth. It began to seem as though this whirlwind of owners, flags and new names would never end. In 1927, Diane became Vira (the name with which Creole was to be christened three years later) and changed to the Argentine register in the hands of Raul C Monsegur, who took her across the Atlantic to Buenos Aires. Finally, in 1930, her new owner Miguel Mz de Pinillos brought her to C?diz, put her under the Spanish flag and named her Orion.
Mz de Pinillos filled the yacht with beautiful old English furniture and silver tableware. He kept her for 16 years and spent much time on board, giving her her first experience of stability. It was under his ownership, that she had her first taste of peril on the seas: in 1935, during a cruise in the Channel, an explosion destroyed the doghouse and wheelhouse, and damaged the boom which 'also had to be replaced. Orion's Spanish period continued first under a new owner, Manuel Beltran Mata, then with the company Fragesco SA which brought her to Barcelona in 1949, and finally the Lebo Entreprise SA of Panama, which sold her on to an Italian owner in 1966.
On 17 March 1966, on the way to Marseilles from Barcelona, she was caught out in a bad squall from the northeast at Cap Creus, which is quite the worst spot in the Gulf of Lions when the Mistral is blowing. Despite the bad weather, Orion was sailing c10sehauled at 7 knots when the inner forestay broke; the masts fell partly on to the deck and partly into the water. Towed to Marseilles by a passing boat, she left her broken masts there, and limped slowly back to the harbour at La Spezia under her own power.
Some time later, a young naval architect, 27-year-old Ugo Faggioni, was contacted by Argo, a yard in the small port of Le Grazie, near Portovenere, to design a new rig for Orion. As the new owner didn't want a gaff schooner rig, Ugo designed a simple schooner staysail rig. The two masts, shorter than the originals, were each made in a single piece, the foremast with staysail and fisherman, the mainmast with a gaff sail. The foresails consisted of two flying jibs and a stormsail. The bowsprit and main boom were shortened to reduce the number of crew needed to manoeuvre the yacht, and a hydraulic winch was installed to facilitate mainsail handling. The sail area was now 800m2, with sails made by Hood. This rig proved very efficient: on one occasion Orion hit 17 knots when cruising with all her sails set between Monaco and the Cape of Corsica.

However, here began the worst period in Orion's history. We pick up her story 10 years later. The yacht, which had always been looked after well by her previous owners, was now badly iII treated.

Her furnishings were dismantled and removed; the mahogany panels which Iined her interior were painted over in white. No maintenance whatsoever was done. After changing hands twice, in 1978 the Braghieri brothers, Italian yachtsmen, discovered Orion in a very sorry state. They literally fell in love with the yacht and began the lengthy task of repairing her. The work was entrusted to the Valdettaro yard, specialists in the restoration of c1assic yachts.

Imagine the yacht as she was at this time: her interiors spoiled, her decks in bad repair, her keel in need of overhaul, its layer of copper badly damaged. Only her rig was in good order. The owners, who wished to bring Orion gradually back to something resembling her original state, made a lucky decision: they hired Ignazio Torrente as captain and head of the restoration project.

A highly experienced and competent man, Torrente helped to salvage the yacht and stayed with her for the next 11 years.

In the winter of 1985/86 the electrics and plumbing were completely replaced. Two Onan generators were installed, along with air-conditioning, a desalinator, a new bilge pump and fire pumps, and new navigation and communication equipment. The following year significant structural work was undertaken. The layer of copper was removed from the keel, which was rebuilt in mahogany and green walnut, and all the hull fastening was redone. The lead water tanks and pipe work were replaced with stainless steel. Two 230hp Caterpillar engines were installed, where previously Orion had only one engine ? a relatively powerful one with a propeller aperture set into the rudder. In the winter of 1989/90, when the structural works were finished, attention turned to the decks which were re-laid in teak.
Orion was now making an appearance at all the major classic yacht rallies that take place in the Mediterranean every year, at La Nioulargue, Imperia, Porto Cervo and Monaco. At this time, she had a reputation for being a slow boat, always left behind by the Fife design Altair, her eternal young rival, launched in 1930. But Orion has always been the one who attracts admiring glances for the incomparable elegance of her lines.

Echoes of 1910

In 1998, with new owners, also Italian, Orion's life was due to change again. They were determined, they said, to return Orion strictly to her original state to increase her value, but as anyone knows who is deeply involved with owning a classic yacht, that is not such an easy task.

They were using the boat for charter, so there seemed little point in spending a large amount of money on a new rig and wardrobe of sails.

However, the owners are proud of their boat and the sparkle they have given back to her: "Orion was in regular use for galas, dinners and soir?es between Porto Cervo and Monaco with important guests, but a yacht like this is intended for more than society Iife. We had had enough of always coming last in races, and decided that it was time for her to take her rightful place in the group led by Mariette and Altair."

The yard of Beconcini, in La Spezia, experts in vintage yacht restoration, was commissioned with the necessary work. And Ugo Faggioni was called upon to provide Orion with an identical rig to that designed for her by Charles Nicholson.

As the yacht had been registered with Lloyd's, and the plans had been carefully preserved by Camper & Nicholson, it was easy to recreate the rigging and the original deck plan.
The spars were remade to their original length: the 8m bowsprit was extended to 11 m and the boom gained 1.5m. The masts and spars are made of Douglas fir from America and the rig is exactly the same as the original. However, as it would be out of the question nowadays to have a crew of 25 to sail her, electric winches have been installed, allowing the crew to be reduced to eight people including steward and cook. The deck plan has been reworked and simplified. The rudder post, which echoes the original design, is larger, with the wheel inclined at seven degrees like the original.

Two elements are not original: the boom gallows, now made of bronze but previously made only of iron, and the engine control levers. On the aft deck, eight ventilator covers have been removed. They were "mainly there to look pretty, but required meticulous c1eaning every day, took up space and added weight for not very much" according to Captain Renzo Castagna.

Obviously the hull was in need of repair. Some of the planking was replaced, as were the two mast steps and the propellers; the hull was sand blasted and all the paintwork and varnish redone. Two electric WCs were installed, with a reservoir for black water, which has to be emptied at sea for lack of facilities in the marinas but still enables.

environmental regulations to be observed at moorings. The interior required only small improvements: for instance, the 'overly heavy and luxurious' soft furnishings were replaced with fabric of simpler design which is easier to care for. Overhead hatches let in plenty of natural light and can be removed at anchor for maximum ventilation.

Her deckhouse is a wonderful place to sit and enjoy a glorious day of sailing under full protection from the elements.

Aboard you can imagine what it was like to be aboard a clipper ship of. years gone by. What more could one do to improve such a yacht? She is so elegant. She has no need of lacquer, nor 'windows', nor engraved mirrors, nor ostentatious decoration. Some beautiful china, some hand-embroidered linen, crystal glasses, a few silver trinkets, a knowledge of sailing and respect for its traditions; these suffice for this wonderful work of art. Ownership of such a yacht may carry responsibilities, but without a doubt it also brings infinite pleasures. Let's hope her new Norwegian owner continues to maintain her splendour and that we have the good fortune to see her frequently around the Mediterranean.

No?lle Duck


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