Nicky Haslam's 6
favourite sailing memories


Yacht-spotting in St Tropez

Interior designer, socialite, writer and bon viveur Nicky Haslam is a regular guest on board the yachts of the great, the good and the merely fabulous. Here he shares his happiest seafaring memories...

Towards the end of the 1950s, living in St Tropez, we would reel out of Ghislaine’s, one of the world’s first discothèques, to see Stavros Niarchos’s ravishing black-hulled and famously cursed 63 metre sailing yacht Creole (pictured) had sailed in overnight, or Gianni Agnelli’s racers, pencil-slim, scudding away below a million sails and, once, the flamboyant Chilean millionaire Arturo López Willshaw’s fantasy, La Gaviota (now Marala), her décor by Emilio Terry of giraffe-skin-velvet upholstered banquettes, Louis XVI furniture and Ming-potted palms as deliciously, extravagantly impractical then as they would be today. Off Tahiti Plage, we’d lunch on movie producer Sam Spiegel’s Malahne (contemporary of Shemara, on which her then owner, Lady Docker, had got into deep do-do for tearing up the Monagesque flag), with Betty Bacall and Jean Vanderbilt diving, lithe as ribbons, into the sun-splintered sea.

Don’t think for a moment I actually went on board these fabled craft, except for Sam Spiegel’s. Rather, just gazed, in mute admiration. Later, for one Aegean-sailed August, friends and I hired a leaky tub that took on water so alarmingly we had to abandon ship with Prince and Princess Michael of Greece’s gleaming white hull handily towering over us. 

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