The then-Prince Charles on board with New York mayor Ed Koch, Nancy Reagan and Malcolm Forbes

5 images

The then Prince Charles on board The Highlander with New York mayor Ed Koch, Nancy Reagan and Malcolm Forbes
Credit: Bob Luckey/Newsday RM via Getty Images

Eye openers: The stories behind iconic images from the yachting archives

22 May 2024 • Written by Caroline White and Lucy Dunn

Whether getting hands-on in sailing regattas, hosting exclusive parties on board some of the world's largest superyachts, or escaping persistent paparazzi in secluded spots, royalty and high society have long been bound to the yachting world. Luckily, many of these moments have been captured on film for historical aficionados to obsess over. BOAT flicks through the yachting archives to dig deeper into the contexts behind four breathtaking photos... 

The prince of sails

The then-Prince Charles sailing in 1979
Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Sporty, casual and semi-clothed – this 1979 shot of Great Britain’s then-Prince Charles is not what you’d expect from a monarch who today is most commonly interviewed wearing tweed in country gardens. It was part of an early morning photo shoot on Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Western Australia, designed to pep up the image of a member of the royal family who was already seen as shy, reserved and uncomfortable in the limelight.

Read More/Gallery: Europe's royal families captured at sea

Photographer Kent Gavin threw a grenade into the set-up by asking a model, wearing only a bikini, to run up and kiss the prince as he emerged from the water, resulting in perhaps the most famous image of the day. This shot of Charles windsurfing, while certainly less headline-grabbing, is perhaps more revealing of its subject, displaying solid technique and a look of determination.

Sports such as windsurfing, sailing and skiing are often popular with those who have high-pressure jobs, since they are all-consuming, entirely engaging both the body and the mind – no scope for extraneous worries and their physical knock-ons.

Read More/The top superyacht regattas to add to your 2024 calendar

Ciao bella

Marella Agnelli pictured here in 1962 with fellow Swan Jackie Kennedy in Amalfi
Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images

Marella Agnelli is today best known as one of Truman Capote’s “Swans” — the coterie of New York socialites ruled by the formidable Vogue fashion editor Babe Paley that the author befriended and immortalised in a scandalous Esquire piece known as La Côte Basque (more recently adapted for television, starring Naomi Watts as Paley). The group epitomied 1960s style and elegance, and Agnelli was perhaps the most elegant of them all. Capote, as reported by his friend Katherine Graham, once said that if Paley and Agnelli “were both in Tiffany’s window, Marella would be more expensive.”

Agnelli was a tastemaker accomplished in photography and fabric design, and she also wrote furiously (for Vogue and books about gardening). She is pictured here in 1962 with fellow Swan Jackie Kennedy in Amalfi, from where the two would board Agneta, the yacht belonging to Marella’s husband, Gianni Agnelli. 

The industrialist and Fiat boss, at one time the richest man in Italy, loved beautiful things ­— and Agneta was certainly ravishing. The classic mahogany yawl designed by Knud Reimers, launched in 1950 and bought by Agnelli in 1959, features silver spruce spars, burgundy sails and a marble fireplace in the owner’s cabin. She provided both performance on the Med regatta racing circuit, and a suitably stylish retreat for the Agnellis and their illustrious guests.

The couple also amassed an impressive art collection, including commissions by Andy Warhol. But the most valuable jewel in Gianni’s life would always be Marella.

Read More/Christina O: what happened to Aristotle Onassis' 99m superyacht?

The self-made man and the princess

Princess Diana on Al-Fayed's yacht Jonikal, seven days before the car crash in August 1997
Credit: Shutterstock

There's a lot to say about Mohamed Al-Fayed, the rags-to-ritches former owner of Harrods, who died in August 2023. By turns bullyish, generous and flamboyant, his "not-quite-cricket" business dealings blocked his reception into English high society – and a much-longed-for British passport (he was born in the slums of Alexandria in Egypt). But he is now perhaps best known for his association with Diana, Princess of Wales, who was girlfriend to his son, Dodi. After the pair were killed in a car crash in Paris, Al-Fayed's deep, bitter grief was plastered all over the front pages of the British tabloids.

The paparazzi image taken in Portofino, among the most famous informal "portraits" of the princess post-divorce, was taken on Al-Fayed's yacht Jonikal, seven days before the car crash in August 1997. She had visited the yacht with her sons just a month earlier, as part of a trip to Saint-Tropez, an experience that Prince Harry described in his 2023 memoir Spare: "Everything about that trip to Saint-Tropez was heaven. The weather was sublime, the food was tasty, Mummy was smiling."

The 63.8-metre yacht itself was commissioned by Al-Fayed and delivered in 1990. Built by Codecasa, Jonikal was sold not long after the tragedy. She has run through a couple of different owners and names – plus an interior refit by H2 Yacht Design – and was most recently sold by Lebanese telecoms magnate Bassim Haidar (she was asking €15,500,000). It was perhaps a bitter irony for Al-Fayed that the car crash that killed his son was the event that linked him indelibly with the royal family, from whom he at one time craved acceptance. The yacht, now known as Isabelle Princess of the Seas, is a part of that story, but perhaps a happier chapter.

Read More/The Crown: Five insights into the yachts featured in series six

High jinks on the Amazon

Courtesy of the Forbes Family / The Highlander Archive

Taking a superyacht up the Amazon is a rare thing in 2023, but in 1987 it was practically unheard of. With its swift currents and constantly shifting sandbanks, the river is not for the faint heart. But nothing fazed Malcolm Forbes, the legendary publishing baron who ruled the New York scene during this era, more often than not from his 50-metre yacht, The Highlander

"He was many things – boss, bon vivant, raconteur, balloonist, columnist, happiest millionaire, leader of the pack, oyabun, el jefe, mentor, friend, super-this, mega-that; father, grandfather, father-in-law, uncle, cousin and ever the sparkling naughty boy," his son Bob once wrote.

Forbes would regale guests with his hair-raising adventures at glittering parties on board The Highlander. This portrait, taken from the Forbes family archives, shows a typically smiling Forbes in his signature blue blazer and grey flannels posing proudly in front of his beloved boat. Precise details of where and why this portrait have been lost in the mists of time – but look a little closer and there's a clue: a large scrape just above the waterline, most likely caused by tree trunks and root balls slamming into the boat as it pushed its way through the Amazon.

Turns out it wasn't the only time The Highlander battled nature on that expedition – in fact it took some quick thinking from a former king to free the boat's propellers as they later got tangled with some vines.

Read More/The 1980s heyday of Malcolm Forbes' The Highlander

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