In 1987 Albert Obrist, a Swiss Industrialist well known for his restorations of Ferraris, finished the ground breaking restoration of the Fife designed and built classic yacht Altair (1931). This restoration was carried out by his handpicked team together with Southampton Yacht Services.
Mr Obrist so enjoyed the classic yacht restoration process that he asked Duncan Walker, the number 2 under Paul Goss on the Altair project, to find a suitable historic yacht to restore, stating that the time was right to set up the first specialist restoration yard for classic and historic sailing yachts.
In late 1989 Duncan saw a simple advertisement for a restoration candidate in Yachting World. This yacht proved to be Tuiga the first of the 15M IRC class to appear on the market for some years. After a visit to Cyprus, Tuiga was inspected and then purchased. After wintering in Palma, Duncan sailed the yacht up to Hamble under a reduced 12m Bermudan rig. Fairlie Restorations was subsequently born in May 2000 with the renting of 120 sq metres of covered space from Hamble Yacht Services.
The original plans of Tuiga were obtained from the last Manager of the Fairlie Slip Company, as the yard became after the death of William Fife in 1944. Archie MacMillan, then aged around 90 years and Duncan became firm friends, as it was discovered that Archie and Duncan’s grandfather must have gone to the same village school in Salcoats, Ayrshire, so creating a special link.
The return of Altair to the village of Fairlie to celebrate her 60 birthday in 1991 gave Archie the thrill of sailing Fife’s yachts again. Shortly after the celebration Archie offered the Fife Archive of some 600 rare original drawings and lofting calculations to Fairlie Restorations, in exchange of course for a suitable sum of money.
Following the completion of the 15m class Tuiga in 1993, Mr. Obrist introduced one of his friends to Fairlie, looking for a large ketch to restore and sail around the world. Coincidentally, details about a large yacht about to be auctioned by the legal authorities came to light and Fairlie secured the yacht for their client. An extensive structural restoration was undertaken and completed in 1995 and after a few years cruising in the Mediterranean, Kentra set off on her circumnavigation which was completed in the summer of 2003.
Madrigal M originally built in 1938 and then rebuilt by Archie Macmillan in 1952 was restored in 1997/98, the first small cruising yacht undertaken by the yard. The Owner, a Spanish Architect, managed to sympathetically modernise the interior whilst keeping the yacht original on deck.
Madrigal was quickly followed by a winter’s work on Belle Aventure and then the full restoration of The Lady Anne another member of the 15 metre class. The completion of this yacht in 1999 saw the first race, together with Tuiga, between members of the 15 metre Class since the late twenties.
Throughout the nineties various smaller projects were undertaken, three yachts from eight metre class; Fulmar; Carron II and the Morgan Giles designed Siris.
In late 2000 Paul Spooner joined Fairlie as Naval Architect and within a few months of him joining a client was secured for Mariquita
The yacht Mariquita, the last known British built survivor of the 19 metre class, was purchased in 1991, salvaged from her mud berth in Pin Mill, near Ipswich, UK, and brought to Hamble where she lay for ten years before a client came forward and invested in her restoration. This restoration completed in 2004 is the largest project undertaken to date.
The restoration of Jap (1897), a Cork Harbour One Design, is the oldest yacht restored by the yard. This project carried out for a very experienced yacht owner, produced a new concept in regatta sailing. Jap, on her trolley, and rigged with her bowsprit fits neatly into a large shipping container, with all her gear. Hence the movement of the yacht between regattas can be carried out quickly and safely.
2003 saw the birth of a fusion yacht, this yacht designed by in-house Naval Architect Paul Spooner combines the traditional sea keeping qualities of a long keel yacht, fitted out with superb joinery fused with a 21st century rig in the form of a carbon mast with in-boom furling.
Late 2005 saw the start of the restoration of Hispania, a sister ship to Tuiga. This project was carried out jointly with Asterilleros del Mallorca. Fairlie carried out the restoration of the hull and then the yacht to Mallorca for completion. This project enable Duncan to renew a twenty year old friendship with the Director of Asterilleros. They had previously worked together on the build of Jessica/Schooner xxxx/Adix in the early nineteen eighties.
In addition to these various restoration projects the yard has built up a reputation for building high class exterior deck joinery. Much investment in the last few years has equipped the yard with all the plant and machinery likely to be required to make the yard more efficient. The investments in 2006 included a substantial spray booth to significantly reduce the costs of varnishing and painting.
2006 saw the first French owned yacht into the yard. Moonbeam of Fife came to Hamble and the yard carried out considerable structural and detailing work.
The winter of 2006/7 saw the return of Altair to Fairlie’s care. Weight considerations meant that Fairlie had to set up a temporary satellite yard at Saxon Wharf in Southampton to give this famous yacht a twenty year birthday treat. The scope of work included structural work, re-engineering of the air conditioning system, replacement of many mechanical systems, rig work etc.
With the third Fife regatta due in 2008 a client was found in mid 2007 to restore Lucky Girl a Finnish built Fife designed 8M. This yacht had been so badly distorted that Fairlie had to re-loft the yacht from the original offsets prepared by Fife nearly a century before.
Lucky Girl enabled Fairlie to complete a unique run of three consecutive yards numbers, 568,569 and 570 the yachts being Tuiga Hispania and Lucky Girl.
Late 2008 saw the arrival of Halloween, an ocean racing yacht from Fife ‘s design board in 1926. This yacht had been suffering for some years with leaks which gradually became more severe and then came to a head so the yacht came to Hamble for a diagnosis and cure of the problem inadvertently caused twenty years before.
The winters of 2009 and 2010 saw work on Kelpie. Bought in early 2009 by an English classic yacht enthusiast Fairlie carried out a full structural restoration over these two winters. Kelpie now regularly competes in all possible regattas in the UK and Mediterranean.
With work carried out on yachts by Fife and Mylne, only work on a Watson designed yacht was needed to complete the Scottish designers. This came in late 2009 in the form of St Patrick. Design by G..L Watson and built in 1919 by Fife to the 18ft BRA rule; four of these small yachts were built- the Saints IE George, David, Andrew and Patrick. These yachts boasted a heavy metal centre plate passing through the ballast keel, a very lightly built hull and an enormous sail area. Sadly due to decades of storage outside in the elements only the backbone and beam shelf were reusable.
The roots of the Company started in 1985. Mr. Albert Obrist, a Swiss industrialist and owner of a large collection of Ferraris, restored under his supervision to original condition, bought the Fife designed schooner Altair. For a number of years Mr. Obrist had felt that a restoration of a classic yacht to the depth and
From 1987, and starting with the Altair project, Fairlie have been restoring traditional sailing yachts of all sizes
With the first decade of the 21st Century run its course, a few thoughts on the reasons why the designs of a third generation Ayrshire born yacht designer remain so important 150 years after his birth