shenandoah of sark aerial view of sailing yacht

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All images courtesy of Burgess

Yacht of the Week: The 120-year-old schooner that caught the attention of James Bond

6 July 2022 • Written by Katia Damborsky

When you step on board Shenandoah of Sark, you’re following in the footsteps of kings, queens, high-profile aristocrats, a handful of smugglers, and 007 himself. To get a sense of her storied past, Katia Damborsky meets her in Sardinia...

“We were anchored off a luxury hotel in Bora Bora and the concierge came to me and said: 'We’ve got a guest staying at the hotel and he’s spotted your boat. Would it be possible for him to come and take a look?’,” recalls  Russell Potter, captain of 55 metre Shenandoah of Sark. “I said: ‘You’ll have to tell me who it is,’ and they obliged. It was quite surreal, picking up James Bond from an exclusive hotel and whisking him on board for cocktails.”

Shenandoah captures the spirit of the Golden Age of Yachting. She is currently listed for sale and charter with Burgess.

Hollywood heavyweights may be surreal, but being noticed is the norm for Shenandoah. After all, when you’re a triple-masted wooden schooner with a 13 metre bowsprit and 2,646 square metres of billowing white sails, you’re bound to turn heads. Case in point: we’re cruising on Shenandoah in Sardinia, a veritable playground for gleaming gigayachts, and Shenandoah still seems to be attracting the most attention. 

“She's always going to be one of the most photographed, glamorous boats wherever we go,” says Potter, smiling as the guests of a passing superyacht stretch out their phones to capture Shenandoah underway.

She has competed in countless regattas over the years

It’s not just her imposing stature that makes her such an attention-grabber, either; her sailing performance is a force to be reckoned with. We’re cruising out of Porto Rotondo at a leisurely pace, watching as the crew unleash her sails and busily stash loose items in cupboards. I'm watching from the cockpit, sipping espresso and thinking about stretching out in a sunlounger to enjoy the sailing experience. I need to dry off – we've spent the morning scooting about on SeaBobs and attempting to balance on an eFoil (there's also scuba gear, sailing dinghies and kayaks).

The second the sails go up, I realise the sunlounger is out of the question; Shenandoah has transformed from a breezy, sunny-day cruiser to a supercharged sailer, rich with power and as graceful as a stallion as she cleaves through the water. "I don't think someone could buy this boat if they weren't into sailing," says Potter, flitting between monitoring the yacht's steep heel and the horizon. 

Many of her crew have stayed on board for several years

A crew of 12 operate her day-to-day, but during regattas she can be manned by a crew of 30. Watching them trim and tune the sails in effortless synchronicity is like watching an orchestra in full symphony, and I begin to understand why Potter says that the crew is one of the yacht’s finest assets. 

It’s a tight-knit bunch, and all of them seem to have a permanent smile and warm manner. Perhaps that’s what comes of calling Shendoah home for so long; some crew members have been on board for almost thirty years, and Potter himself has been on board for almost fifteen. 

Splendid service is matched by impeccable dining, with highlights including butter-soft beef fillet, tangy homemade sourdough and velvety peach cheesecake served with white chocolate ice cream. Creating dishes of this calibre is no easy feat, particularly when you see how tight the galley space is.

The cockpit offers shelter and shade

Shenandoah comfortably accommodates 10 guests in four cabins, with a flexible configuration that allows for additional berths if required. The interior has maintained a traditionally nautical theme, with plenty of crisp whites offset by glossed wood and a baby Steinway taking pride of place in the main saloon. 

Rich oil paintings and detailed sketch drawings feature throughout, alongside walls that are thick with books on travel and art. In the master suite, one of these walls flips open, not unlike a scene from Scooby Doo, to reveal a secret passageway to the captain’s cabin. It’s a vintage touch that nods to her colourful history.

Read More/Iconic Yachts: On board the 120-year-old classic schooner Shenandoah of Sark
A baby Steinway features in the saloon

Shenandoah of Sark first hit the water in 1902 at New York-based shipyard Townsend & Downey, and her life has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows since then. Highs include guest appearances in Vogue photoshoots, Rod Stewart music videos and (a rumoured sighting) at Grace Kelly’s wedding, while lows include reputed smuggling activities and narrowly avoiding the claws of the salvage yard on more than one occasion.

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but she’s managed to bounce back every time. Now, she is offered for sale and charter with Burgess. She will be cruising primarily in the Mediterranean this summer - although her new owner will be able to take her “pretty much everywhere”, according to Potter. No stranger to roads less travelled, Shenandoah has snaked through the fjords of Norway, bounced between bays in Madagascar and braved the remote shores of South Georgia.

A classic interior enhances her traditional beauty

Indeed, it was in South Georgia that she was involved in the rescue of a bathtub formerly owned by legendary Arctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. “It was stuck in a disused whaling station in another fjord,” recalls Potter. “We managed to get the bath into the tender and then winched it up on to the aft deck.” After some photo opportunities with the historic tub, they sailed onwards to Grytviken, where it was donated to a local museum.

Shenandoah has circumnavigated the globe

That’s part of the beauty of Shenandoah. Captain Potter could entertain us for hours with tales of James Bond, bathtubs and the rescue of a stricken boat that had been floating adrift off the coast of Indonesia for ten days – but there is a whole centuries’ worth of tales captured within these teak decks and pine masts. She's a floating piece of maritime history, and she's currently on the lookout for a new custodian to enjoy the next chapter of her life with. 

Shenandoah of Sark is available for sale and charter through Burgess, with a weekly charter rate starting from €125,000 and an asking price of €9,900,000 with VAT paid.

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