The “disputed treasure” of the Agnelli legacy. The Lawyer’s Boats


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gianni agnelli capricia

In the fierce Agnelli/Elkann battle pitting mother Margherita Agnelli against children John, Lapo, and Ginevra Elkann for the inheritance of Gianni and Marella Agnelli, the Avvocato’s boats have also entered the scene. The yachts’ involvement stems from the search for the alleged undeclared “treasure” that Margaret said penalized her in inheriting the estate left by her father.

Part of the treasure are the wonderful boats that Gianni Agnelli owned through foreign companies. What are they? We traced the lawyer’s passion for boats and sailing, revealed by his boatmaster Alfredo Alocci, who told the Sailing Newspaper a few years ago about his favorite places, recipes, wonderful yachts, anecdotes and whims of a man who loved the sea.

Gianni Agnelli, sailor. Boating with the Advocate

Gianni Agnelli is known to everyone. He is the man who has represented Italy better than any other in the modern era. Class, style, resourcefulness, brilliance, irony. But the Avvocato had a great passion besides Juventus: the sea and sailing. And he has passed on his passion to his nephew John Elkann, owner of that Maserati that is on the hunt for new sailing records with Giovanni Soldini.

His foreman, Alfredo Alocci, who followed him for 30 years in a delightful book “At Sea with the Lawyer,” and Mario Oriani, the founder of this newspaper who knew him well, tell about his seafaring passion, favorite places, boats, foods.

gianni agnelli berlusconi
Agnelli with an awkward Silvio Berlusconi aboard Extra Beat.

Here is what Alocci writes: “A great love that Gianni Agnelli had for the sea. ‘I’m coming,’ he would announce, and that perfect machine that were his sailors would start up, whatever the weather, whatever the hour. As soon as he had a free moment, the Advocate would call, have the boat prepared, and join him and then set sail into the open sea in search of clean, deep waters in which to swim. Even though the weather was not the best. Even though winter had recently ended. Sometimes alone, sometimes in the company of more or less distinguished guests, to whom he would occasionally play a few tricks.” Here are some little stories of his sailings, favorite places, and boats.

Gianni Agnelli’s boat anecdotes

In Corfu anchovies and champagne

Corfu, Palio Castrizza Bay. The Advocate boarded the Boston, which served as tender to the Capricia. “Wait for me here, I’ll be back shortly.” He returns after an hour, accompanied by a small group of people; some ladies are wearing very elegant dresses. “Tell the cook that we are having a party tonight. See what’s good and then let me know.” I report to the cook, who is quite displeased: no dinner was planned, the galley is almost empty.

Question, “Do you know how many there are?” “Not exactly, however, quite a handful, at a rough guess those left ashore are many more than those who have already gone up.” The cook, who is a Neapolitan, is bewildered: “Madonna, ch’agg’a fa? I don’t have anything….” He comes to the ground with me, talks to the Advocate. There is one hope; we have always found lobsters here. But the Advocate has another solution: “Those fishermen over there have the freshest anchovies. Get plenty of them and cook them all breaded and fried.” And the cook renounces his intention to make at least one cold pasta, because personal initiatives have never been fashionable here. I set a self-service style table, the cook fries for an hour, the Advocate orders champagne to be served chilled, ladies in long dresses hide their disgust and are forced to bring fish to their mouths with their hands. Anchovies and champagne.”

The bathroom in jeans

“What do you suggest: better to go toward Italy or toward Saint-Tropez? We moor toward the monastery on the island of Saint Honorat (Lerins Islands). There is some movement, but not excessive. Guests put on their costumes; the Advocate is shirtless but continues to wear jeans. He does not have a costume with him and asks if we have one. I offer him mine, but he does not accept it and communicates that he will bathe with his jeans. “Counsel, it will be quite uncomfortable.” “It’s certainly not the best. But it is cheaper.”

gianni agnelli saint tropez
A photo of Gianni Agnelli that caused a scandal in the 1980s (photo above) but represents well what the sea meant to the Avvocato: freedom to throw himself into the water (from his Agneta) naked from his boat, without inhibitions, in freedom.


Lawyer Agnelli has owned some of the most beautiful boats in the world. Here is a complete review of the larger ones.

Engagement with the Swan

That morning in Calvi, the mugginess of summer is alleviated by a cool and tense mistral. With the wind blowing, with the Advocate at the helm, with the captain grumbling about the dangerousness of the maneuver, we sail out of the harbor, without even starting the engine. “Veer, orza poggia,” orders the Advocate. The wind pulls, and we notice a Swan rushing out of the Calvi roadstead with all the sail up and the bow straight over our stern. “Do you think they feel like competing with us?” the Advocate asks. “If they’re not mad at us, they’re mad at the wind. However, the fight is unequal, we are much faster,” replied the commander. The Advocate asks, “Are you willing to get a little wet?”

A pulse-pounding race begins. Increasing wind, spray, pure adrenaline. Until we hear the dry sound of a crash. It is the jib of the Swan that crashed into the sea. On board we see a great confusion, the Swan held back by the large sail cannot stay with its bow to the wind, traversed by the waves it rolls scary. “Counselor, don’t get too close. These might come at us,” the commander shouts. “Don’t worry, don’t worry,” he replies, as he brings himself upwind and then brakes the Capricia a few meters from the Swan. “Rather, ask if they need help.” The response is an eloquent gesture, a “Vaffa.”, in short. That puts a smile back on the Advocate’s face: “Good. With this wind today there’s fun to be had. Are you ready to tack? “.

Gianni Agnelli on the Greek island of Skorpios with Jaqueline Kennedy-Onassis.

Stranding in the Balearics

The Extra Beat sailboat is at anchor in Palm Bay; it is about 3 p.m. when I catch sight of the Lawyer leaning against the edge of the F100 (his speedboat, ed.) looking straight at us. Before long we will have him on board. We set sail and prepare with the mainsail already up: a very simple operation, especially if he does not participate in the maneuver. The speedboat approaches and in a flash he is up, rudder wheel in hand.

We begin to sail, edging into the bay, among the boats that are at anchor. He gets excited to pass by them until he almost touches them. Fun that lasts no more than ten minutes. We return to tacking near the shore. The risk factor increases a lot: the skipper reminds him that it’s time to spread out, the boat’s draft is about 6 meters, great care is needed. “Don’t worry,” he replies. “I know these coasts by heart, I spent my youth there.”. The commander reminds him for the umpteenth time to spread out. But he continues until the boat takes a hit on the bulb and runs aground .

We immediately proceed to de-rigging operations, moving the boom all to one side and adding weights on the end so as to heel the boat as much as possible. In a few minutes the boat resumed sailing. The silence is broken by the Advocate, who wants to find a way to be right: “This is a spot where I had to pass without any problems, I know it too well. Maybe I understood what happened: they did some restoration work at the villa and threw some rubble into the sea. Yes, it can only have gone like this.”.

gianni agnelli boat
Gianni Agnelli at the helm of Stealth, his latest boat now owned by the Elkann brothers.

So Azure was born

Agnelli, with the complicity of Cino Ricci and the architect Vallicelli, in an antelucid phone call (he always woke up and woke up very early) with Prince Karim Aga Khan, founder and animator of the Porto Cervo Yacht Club, told him that it was time to try the great adventure of the America’s Cup (this is the early 1980s, ed.) aware of the difficulty of winning, but determined to participate. Was His Highness in? Karim immediately said yes. And so began, thanks to the two big guys, what was to be Operation Blue.

Agnelli loved being at the helm, and Cino Ricci, also in Azzurra’s day, knows this well, because he had to keep his escapades off Porto Cervo with Agnelli at the helm a secret from the other sponsors, breaking the pact that no one who was not part of the crew could go out on the boat, much less go to the helm. But how to say no to the Advocate?

gianni agnelli azzurra
Gianni Agnelli at the launching of Azzurra with the Aga Khan and crew.

How did Gianni Agnelli steer?

The Advocate cared that his boats were the fastest of all (German Frers, among others, knows a thing or two about that), but going him personally to the regatta was not even worth talking about. There were two or perhaps three reasons. The first is that the possibility of not winning was not covered in his sports code. The second, that he would definitely be at the helm. As always. And so the defeat would have been his anyway. The third that, in fact, when there was no wind, he was bored and on sea outings it was normal, indeed expected, for him to really escape the becalmedness so much so that the boat was always followed by a motor vehicle to take him ashore. In short, the Lawyer liked the wind with the screwy sails and the lurching boat.

Gianni Agnelli, right, at the launching of the Moro di Venezia with Raul Gardini.

Thus Stealth was born

The Lawyer’s dream was to break the Atlantic crossing record, confident that in the Ocean he would not miss the wind. The Extra Beat, from 1988, was a 36-meter maxi yacht that was supposed to spin “like a rocket.” It was beautiful, but he wanted more, so he asked German Frers for a means to go even faster and break Atlantic crossing records (with Extra Beat it was impossible) and suggested he use technology from America’s Cup boats. Thus was born a boat smaller than Extra Beat, 26 meters long, 36 meters mast, 7 meters wide.

gianni agnelli stealth
Stealth, the 26-meter that Avvocato Agnelli had designed by German Frers in 1996. It is still one of the most beautiful boats in the world today.

Built in 1996, in England, all carbon fiber. Only the deck is covered with a thin layer of teak. He called it Stealth, the name for U.S. fighter bombers. Agnelli loved colorful sails (those on the Agneta were a revolutionary ochre) in years when boat sails were only strictly white. For the Stealth he wanted everything to be black, including the hull. Minus, the blanket!

Finally-where did Gianni Agnelli like to sail?

gianni agnelli calvi

Agnelli loved the Mediterranean and had many favorite places, coincidentally among the most beautiful places in the “Mare Nostrum.” Here is a review of his favorite destinations.

CAP FERRAT, les Lerins, Eden Roc

A stone’s throw from Italy and Turin. As soon as he had a free moment he would go out for a swim and a sail. He then loved to drop anchor in the shelter of the Lerins Islands, not even a mile from Cannes roadstead. For lunch after a swim he would stop at Eden Roc, a restaurant with enchanting views, in Antibes.


In the heyday of Saint Tropez, in the 1960s/70s Agnelli was at home and liked to sail in the sheltered roadstead. Then by tender he went to the nearby Camargue and up the Rhone River to the Roman city of Arles.


Another great passion of the Advocate was Corsica. He would base in the lovely port of Calvi and then sail, especially when the Mistral rose.


Another Mediterranean passion was the Balearic Islands. Favorite roadsteads: in Majorca, the large bay, in the northern part, of Formentor and in the extreme edge of the island of Formentera, the wonderful anchorage of Espalmador.


He preferred the western Mediterranean, but when he pushed into the Ionian Agnelli was a guest on the private island of Skorpios, then owned by the Onassis family.


Memorable were his New Year’s Eve parties in the sailing paradise of Antigua.

Gianni Agnelli’s favorite recipe in the boat?

gianni agnelli recipe

Gianni Agnelli would invent recipes to make on the boat, driving the ship’s cook crazy. Famous this dish, to be made strictly with what the crew caught.

Spaghetti all’Agnelli. urchins and seafood: limpets, grits, small mussels, sconcigli and so on with spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino and the addition of a glass of white wine. You heat the sauce over high heat and add the seafood, which will open with the heat. The flesh of the urchins is combined.



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