Mariella, the 1938-launched, 80-foot Alfred Mylne-designed Bermudan yawl, returns this month to race in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta after a two-year hiatus. It’s something owner Carlo Falcone, proprietor of the Antigua Yacht Club Marina in Falmouth Harbour, has looked forward to ever since the multi-time regatta winning wooden yacht was damaged back in 2014 during Hurricane Gonzalo.
“The last time we sailed in the Classics was back in 2014 and we won our class (Vintage Class A),” says Falcone, who sailed to Antigua with his family, including then three-year-old son Shannon (now an America’s Cup sailor) back in 1984. “We have won in Classics many times over the past two decades. This includes the overall in 1994 and 1995 and a class win at the 25th anniversary regatta in 2010 when we had US America’s Cup skipper Dennis Conner on board.”
Mariella has been a mainstay competitor at the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta ever since Falcone purchased this beautiful craft at auction back in 1992. Prior to this, Mariella boasts an incredible start and history. She was originally built for James Patterson, a wealthy coffee merchant living in Glasgow, who requested the fastest yacht possible, placing no budget constraints on the builder, the renowned William Fife & Son shipyard in Scotland. Shortly after it’s commissioning, Patterson sold the yacht to Ronald Teacher of Teacher-brand whisky fame. He raced in her only a short time until Mariella was pressed into service as a coastal patrol boat for the British Admiralty at the start of World War II. After the war, Teacher owned her for another 32 years, circling the world several times. There were three more owners and refits at the Cantieri Navali di Porto Cervo, in Sardinia, from 1982 to 1986, and again by McMullen & Wing in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1992, before Falcone purchased her.
“Mariella is fast, but she is also a great and very safe cruising boat. My family and I have sailed her around the world, stopping in New Zealand in the early 2000s to watch Shannon compete (as a team member for Mascalzone Latino, Italy’s America’s Cup syndicate) in the Louis Vuitton Cup,” says Falcone of the two-year 22,000-mile circumnavigation.
In 2005, Falcone set sail aboard Mariella in the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge. The crew included friends and wife Paola, whom Falcone had teamed up with to represent Antigua & Barbuda in the Star Class in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. The route for the 3,000-nautical mile race ran from New York to Cowes. After that, the Falcones raced Mariella in several big races in Monaco, Cannes, Sardinia and St. Tropez, winning many, before sailing back to Antigua. Mariella and the Falcone family have since crossed the Atlantic many times. This includes 2010 where the vessel starred in the movie Nauta, filmed in Gaeta, Italy.
Tragedy struck when Category I Hurricane Gonzalo made landfall in Antigua in October 2014. Many boats were either destroyed or damaged. One of these was Mariella. Winds originally projected to reach 20 to 30 knots as part of a tropical wave skyrocketed to 80 to 90 knot gusts straight out of the north when the fierce storm scythed right over the top of the island. Falcone wasn’t on-island at the time. However, when he returned he saw that Mariella, which was tied up alongside the dock, had suffered extensive injury including massive chafe damage on the starboard side planking due to the breasting anchors being not sufficient to hold her off the dock.
“We hauled her out, patched her up and put her on a boat for transport to a yard in Italy when we found she couldn’t be repaired in the Caribbean,” Falcone says.
The yard was Cantiere Francesco Del Carlo in Viareggio, on Italy’s northwest coast, well-known for its prowess in the restoration of classic wooden yachts. Here, over 18 months, Falcone had everything inside removed and replaced, from new stainless steel tanks, engine and generator to literally every wire. She was also outfitted with a whole new deck.
Mariella arrived back in Antigua via yacht transport ship in October. The Antigua Yacht Club’s Nelson’s Pursuit Race was her first contest since restoration. Next up this month: the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. Then, Falcone will enter Mariella in the Antigua to Bermuda regatta, which departs May 12 and arrives in time to watch this summer’s America’s Cup competition.
“We look forward to racing and always do well in our class. She is a real pleasure to sail, very special, fast and beautiful. When you are young, like Shannon, you want speed and carbon fiber. When you are older and wiser, you learn to appreciate the beautiful lines in a yacht like Mariella,” says Falcone.