Happy birthday Estella, beautiful 75-year-old with a troubled past

The 1946 Bermudian ketch Estella (14 x 3.80 m) after the latest restoration (photo P. Maccione)

Old boat, new life. She turns 75 years old, the ketch Estella, which will be one of the stars at the upcoming Vele Storiche rally in Viareggio. His story deserves to be told.


Estella is a solid 14-meter-long Bermudian ketch built of sturdy larch planks on oak frames. It is designed by Dutchman Ericus van de Stadt, a pioneer of yacht design who died in 1999, while Lino Puia is the name of the shipyard that launched it in Pula in 1946, when Istria was still Italian at the time.

The launching of Estella in 1946 at the Pietas Julia Nautical Society of Sistiana (TS)

More precisely, the construction took place at the headquarters of the historic Pietas Julia nautical company, with the help of workers from the Scoglio Olivi shipyard. To escape persecution by Marshal Tito’s Yugoslav regime, Estella escaped from Pula with athlete and coach Bruno Puia, brother of the aforementioned Lino, on board, who also managed to embark some rowing hulls to keep them from being destroyed.


Once the boat left the Adriatic, it arrived in the Tyrrhenian Sea, where it unfortunately sank at its mooring at the Duca degli Abruzzi marina in Genoa. But its end is not yet marked. The ketch was not only recovered, but also participated in a series of regattas under RORC (Royal Ocean Racing Club) regulations in the following years. In fact, a USVI (Union of Italian Sailing Societies) document, dated 1963, assigns Estella sail number 2612.

In later years it was based in La Spezia, then Anzio, and by the 1980s it was owned by professional Milanese skipper Carlo Belenghi. The boat, in addition to sailing from the French Riviera to Turkey, from Greece to the Aeolian Islands, often with students from the ‘I Venturieri’ Association of Chioggia on board, also began to participate in the first rallies of vintage sails, organized following the birth in 1982 of AIVE, the Italian Association of Vintage Sails.


In 1994, Pisan physician Paolo Dessanti, who fell in love with the boat’s lines, bought it, entrusting its care to the Viareggio-based Del Carlo shipyard, which intervened on the masts (rebuilt in Douglas fir in the 1960s by the Mestron shipyard in Varazze), deck, foresail and mainsail leader. The deckhouse is rebuilt and both 40 percent of the larch boards are replaced with as many maritime pine boards and more than half of the mahogany beams are replaced. Then the boat sails between the Tyrrhenian Sea and Sardinia.

Estella’s “vintage” interior (photo P. Maccione)

Since 2005, Estella has been associated with the newly formed Vele Storiche Viareggio and in 2014 won the category victory at the Livorno Naval Academy Trophy. This year she returned to Del Carlo’s for new work, which involved the partial replacement of the larch boards of the opera morta and opera viva with cedar boards from a prized log purchased 10 years ago by owner Francesco Del Carlo, who passed away in 2015.

Replacing the end of the foredeck, caulking with cottonine, and painting with white enamel have restored her to splendid shape, ready to celebrate her first 75 years of life at the upcoming Vele Storiche Viareggio rally, scheduled to take place at the Tuscan city October 14-17, 2021.

Paul Maccione


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