history

historyThe history of classic yachts is often riddled with inconsistencies and rumors of their whereabouts and ownership. These stories sometimes greatly contribute to the mystery and charm of these historical vessels and ultimately add to their beauty and appeal.

It is fair to say that more often than not, it is virtually impossible to fully document a vessel’s history. Fortunately for Orianda, and thanks to most of her owners and their relatives, it has been possible to retrace most of the vessel’s key dates and happenings.

Like many of her contemporaries, Orianda’s history had been until recently riddled with inconsistencies because data has been passed down by word of mouth rather than fact and evidence. Orianda has been linked to illustrious men who lived and contributed to history as well as to the names of individuals whose very existence cannot be verified.

One example of such inaccuracies is that for years Orianda was erroneously linked to HRH King Christian X of Denmark, who had supposedly commissioned Orianda as his leisure yacht in 1937. Other stories linked the vessel to the Duke of Oresund whose very existence has yet to be ascertained.

In fact the name Orianda only came into existence in the late 70’s. The vessel’s original name in 1937 was in fact Ragna IV , proving that Orianda’s affiliation to HRH Christian X was to say the least a wishful fantasy.

Thankfully the Royal Yacht Registry has been instrumental in proving this misattribution. The Registry, which lists the names of all the vessels owned by, or in official use by Royal Families or Sovereign States, makes no mention of Orianda nor does it list any other vessel with her corresponding features either in Denmark or anywhere else in Europe. The Register’s accuracy and completeness is doubtless, featuring even the Papal States’ vessel, “Immacolata Concezione” amongst Royal and Sovereign Yachts.

Ragna IV-Orianda in 1937
Ragna IV-Orianda in 1937

Our research at the Lloyds registry in London allowed us to correct Orianda’s intriguing history and give a proper account of her ownership during her initial years and provide more accurate information with regards to those who worked so hard to design, build and sail her in her over 75-year history.

Interestingly enough, Orianda appears in most classic yacht publications and articles as a Staysail Schooner built for the Duke of Oresund. Whilst the Duke’s existence could not be verified, the existence of “Direktor” Ole Sundø which sounds frightfully similar to “Oresund” could! Mr Ole Sundø appears in the 1939 edition of Lloyd’s registry as the registered owner of Ragna IV.

The registry also shows that Ragna IV was designed by Oscar W Dahlstrom, a well known Danish designer, who had conceived Ragna IV as a racing cruiser in 1937.

The boat was completed in 1938 by Carl Andersen’s shipyard in Faaborg, Denmark and appeared in the registry in 1939 with the exact same specifications of the present day Orianda, confirming beyond doubt that this is indeed the same yacht.

The late 30’s were difficult years for Denmark, culminating with Operation Weserubung, the code name for the Nazi invasion of Denmark and Norway. Denmark was of strategic importance to Germany in that it was seen as a staging area for operations in Norway, but also, of course, due to its border with Germany which needed to be controlled in some way. Given Denmark’s position in the Baltic Sea the country was also important for the control of naval and shipping access to major German and Russian harbours.

Sadly, the ravages of the war did not spare Ragna IV, who, according to the Baron John Raben-Levetsau, the son of the second owner of the vessel, was apparently seized by Nazi forces and ultimately abandoned on the shores of Denmark without her masts or rig.

Ragna IV was found by the Baron Johan Otto Raben-Levetzau in 1944, in a state of disrepair. Soon after the find, she was sold by Ole Sundø to the Baron.

Shortly after having acquired the vessel, Ragna IV was brought for a major refit to Svendborg, a small port city some 30 km from Faaborg, where she had been originally built by Carl Andersen’s shipyard. The masts that had been taken from the boat to support the war effort, were replaced with new wooden masts carved from some of the rarest trees of Aalholm Castle in Denmark, the Raben-Levetzau’s Danish Estate.

Between 1944 and 1951 Ragna IV continued to be registered in Copenhagen. She sailed throughout Denmark with the name Ragna IV until 1952, when the Baron Raben-Levetzau decided to sail her to Sweden, deemed to be a more appropriate location to enjoy the vessel’s sailing performance due to the fewer sand banks and obstacles to negotiate with.

With the “Swedish Period” come with a few changes for Ragna IV. Her hull was painted navy blue and was re-registered at the Royal Swedish Yachting Club with the name Sabina.

In 1957, Sabina was sailed by the then Captain, Mr Mathiesen, with his crew of three to the south of France in order to commence a charter activity. Sabina explored the south of France until 1958, when the late Baron J.O. Raben-Levetzau sold her to the Greek Consul General in Sweden, Stergios Souyoultzoglou.

Sabine-Orianda entering Hydra in the 60s
Sabine-Orianda entering Hydra in the 60s

Mr Souyoultzoglou repainted her white and from 1958 to 1965 he sailed her mainly on Greek islands with a crew of four. Sabine was chartered on one occasion to the Guiness family and took part in few regattas, including the first Aegean Rally for in the early sisxties, where she qualified third in her class. Then she was sold in 1965-66 to John Draikis, Director of Rally Brothers and thereafter a London based shipowner.

We don’t know much of Sabine during the late sixties and seventies. We are told by the son of Mr Ole Sundø that between 1960 and the 1970’s she sailed from France to Germany, and was sold in Hamburg to a Yachting Club who used her as a training boat, although evidence of these events are yet to be found and verified.

It isn’t until 1981 that the vessel reappears in Antigua, renamed Orianda. Whilst her original Staysail Schooner rig was maintained, her masts were once again changed to steel as they remain to this day.

In 1981 Orianda was sold by a Frenchman from Marseille to Neil Peart, lead drummer of the popular Canadian rock band called RUSH.

As stated in Neil Peart’s autobiography “Roadshow” and in subsequent correspondence, “My friends and I bought Orianda from an old Frenchman in Antigua, and I know our Captain Mike tried to track down some history, but didn’t come up with much — just the Norwegian connection, and that the boat had originally been based in the Mediterranean. During my time of ownership (I’m guessing, but roughly around 1981 – 1987), we were mainly in the British Virgin Islands, then towards the end, in Fort Lauderdale and Newport (seeking a buyer!).”

Orianda was also an inspiration to Peart who, in January 1982, wrote one of his most acclaimed songs “ The Analog Kid” aboard Orianda.

Taken from Neil Peart: “We had been tracking up the Sir Francis Drake Channel most of the day, on a leisurely zig-zag course to Virgin Gorda. At the wheel was our stalwart guest helmsman, Geddy, with Captain Mike and myself reclining in the stern and offering directions. We all watched the pennant halfway up the starboard shrouds, gauging our attitude to the wind. Up forward, First Mate Keith and Deck Steward Tom stood by the sheet for the Yankee jib, ready to wrestle it across the deck for the upcoming tack.

Captain Mike decided that we were close enough to land now to make the manoeuvre, so that if we ran out of wind he could walk to shore! He gave the helmsman his instructions:
“Okay, call out ‘prepare to come about’, and spin the wheel hard over to starboard.”
“That’s right, right?”
“Right!”
“prepare to come about”
Captain Mike laughed his best “dirty old sailor” laugh; “They’ve got to hear you up there, YELL it out!”
“oh … PREPARE TO COME ABOUT!!!”
“Better” …

Last night Geddy played me some of the things he had been working on at home. He had an electronic instrumental that would become the basis for “The Weapon”, a new extended intro for “Vital Signs” live, and a couple of other ideas that we haven’t yet used.

That night as we lay at anchor in Virgin Gorda, Geddy and I went down below after dinner, and I showed him some of the work that I had been doing. I had written “The Analog Kid” as sort of a companion piece to “Digital Man”, which had been written last fall up at Le Studio. He liked it, and we discussed different ways it could be treated musically. As we often do, we thought it would be interesting to take the opposite approach to what the lyrics would suggest; make it a very up-tempo rocker, with some kind of a dynamic contrast for the choruses. We also looked at a rough version of “The Weapon” that I had put together, and agreed that it would need some more work. He told me what he liked, and what he didn’t like, and gave me some good points to go to work on. We put an end to the “shoptalk” and went back to our holidays.”

Peart and his friends owned the boat until 1987, when it was sold to Mr Peter Phillips, in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

As Mr Phillips puts it:
“We had some great adventures in the Caribbean, UK and the Mediterranean (Classic Regatta’s) with Orianda.
We conducted a fair amount of work on her during our ownership, including new Decks, Pilot House, Machinery, Systems, Spars and Sails for starters.”

It was the day after Mr Phillips bought Orianda her stern caught fire: “She was at anchor in the harbour of West End, Tortola. The party had just gone ashore and the next thing, everyone in the bay is charging across to Orianda with their buckets and fire extinguishers. Fortunately the hatches were all open so much of the fire, which had started over the main engine beneath the deckhouse, was funnelled out but it lipped up through the main companionway, the mainsail caught and the molten synthetic sailcloth dripped down on the deck to run all over the place. Being in the heat of fire, the fuel tanks were in serious danger of exploding and, in the end the skipper ordered everyone off the boat. But Orianda had numerous friends in the British Virgin Islands, she represented them during the American Bicentennial celebrations in New York, and there were a couple of very determined West Indian guys who just wouldn’t give up. They formed a chain of buckets and fire extinguishers and went on fighting. In the end, they saved her, the tanks didn’t explode and the fire was eventually put out. She was in a really sorry state apparently gutted from just forward of the pilot house aft. Within two days I had gone from being the proud owner of a classic yacht to a man with a nightmare problem.”

Peter was left with only a partial cover from the insurance. In order to raise the balance to restore the boat, he threw a fund raising party on board and was able to raise sufficient funds to save the boat. The restoration took approximately 5 months with the workforce at times counting as many as sixteen people. Orianda was restored to her former glory.

Having sailed her across many seas from the Danish to the Swedish seas, from the Caribbean to New York and from New York to the English Channel, and having participated in the 1990 Nioulargue, Peter Phillips sold Orianda in 1991 to a Spanish real estate developer, Mr Bellnoch who brought her to Denia in Spain and uses her as a family Sailing Yacht exploring the Balearics until 2008. During the Bellnoch’s ownership, many important changes were carried out to the deck and to the hull. For almost twenty years the Bellnoch’s enjoyed Orianda and in 2008, she participated in the main Spanish Classic Yacht Regatta in Valencia.

In June 2009, the current owners acquired Orianda, from the Bellnoch’s and after having sailed the boat from Spain to Italy and later to Greece for the summer season. In October 2009, at the end of her first season under her new ownership, Orianda was brought to the Roman shipyard “Tecnomar” in Fiumicino for a complete restoration, a testimony of its current owners’ firm passion for classic yachts and their endeavour to continue to add chapters to the intriguing history of a vessel that has survived a war, been ravished by fire, trained seamen in Germany, represented other nations in the U.S. bicentennial and to this day, stands proud as a testament of the achievement of its designers, builders and the people who have looked after her to this day.

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