The tale of the 80 metre Talitha began in 1929 when the yacht – originally known as Reveler – was commissioned by the chairman of the Packard automobile company, Russell Alger, to be built by the German shipyard Krupp Germaniawerft with designs by Cox & Stevens. Following Alger’s death shortly after her launch, she changed hands numerous times and was requisitioned for use as a gunboat by the US Navy in World War II, before being reconverted into a yacht in 1949.Read More/Iconic yachts: Inside the story of Lürssen's 114.5m superyacht Pelorus
Undergoing several changes of ownership and refits, the vessel was eventually restored to its original lines in 1984, thanks to Australian entertainment tycoon Robert Stigwood. Following a series of mechanical issues, which resulted in the yacht being laid up in Lisbon, Jezebel (as she was then known), was sold to the reclusive American-born British petroleum industrialist, J Paul Getty. After languishing in the River Fal in Cornwall, UK for several years under the care of a skeleton crew, Talitha’s three-year full rebuild finally kicked off in 1991 at DML (Devonport Management Limited)- her owner was adamant such work should take place at a British shipyard.Read More/Iconic yachts: Inside the design journey of the 138m Lürssen superyacht Rising Sun
Legendary superyacht designer Jon Bannenberg was given the whitest of carte blanches for Talitha G’s interiors, with Getty adopting a distinctively hands-off approach – he didn’t visit the vessel until launch day. He did however pay a visit to the complete mock-up of the owner’s cabin – complete with both marble-clad bathrooms, which was built at Ashby & Horner in Essex.Read More/Iconic yachts: Inside the build of 162m superyacht Dubai
The project was to design an “entirely new interior” for an “entirely new boat” according to Jon’s son, Dickie Bannenberg, who served as project manager during the build and now heads up the Bannenberg & Rowell design studio in London. He explains: “A huge amount of the steel plating was changed but it was all done to the original method using rivets, with welders from all around Plymouth called up out of retirement to help.”
One of the key challenges was trying to “create something so immaculate within what was essentially a naval dockyard,” he says. “The processes were quite bureaucratic and very different from a conventional shipyard,” he continues.” Indeed, Bannenberg recalls his father being waylaid by the Ministry of Defence Police every time he attempted to enter the dockyard’s secure perimeter fence due to his Australian passport.
For Dickie Bannenberg, Talitha represented a “time capsule in the best sense” capturing what it would have been like to own a yacht in the pre-war years. The interior features myrtle and mahogany woods, alongside details such as a Turkish-themed carpet, monkey fists, cannon legs, cricket balls, reclaimed skylights, specially recast Sue et Mare door handles from 1925 and a carefully curated art collection.Read More/Iconic yachts: On board Al Mirqab, the 133m superyacht with family at its heart
Following her low-key launch ceremony (complete with fish pie, mugs of beef tea and cheese straws), Talitha made a brief stop in the Thames, before heading to the Caribbean. Charted repeatedly by Hollywood stars throughout the 1990s, Talitha split her time between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean and was also graced by Prince Philip for consecutive years, who stayed on board in Cowes during the absence of HMY Britannia.
Fast forward to 2021, it’s clear that the spirit of joie de vivre on board Talitha remains. Now under the ownership of Getty’s family (he passed away in 2003), Talitha’s crew is currently engaged in a virtual game of battleships with the Amels’ yacht Sixth Sense, in which crew can ‘fire a shot’ at the opposing vessel once they have completed an exercise task – 1000 squats, 300 burpees and so on.
As her long-serving captain, Guy Morrall explains: “Talitha enjoys a challenge, whether it be Rowing for Haiti, Lift Your Ship, Whatnot2Waste, or battleships. The crew also loves cricket, stemming from Getty’s love affair with the game, with memorable moments including playing against Prime Ministers and a match in Antigua where the first over was bowled by Curtly Ambrose.”