Date Toured: May 2007
In 1917, a Greek shipping magnate began construction on a replica of the race-winning sailing yacht Metor IV, which at the time was owned by none other than Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II. The replica was commissioned in 1921 and sailed exclusively around the Greek islands until just before World War II, when a British naval officer bought her as a personal platform for sailing the world.
He made it as far as Singapore. That much is known for sure. But the yacht disappeared from the world stage for some 40 years until a New Zealander discovered her in the 1980s, all but buried in a muddy riverbank in England.
The New Zealander spent five years rebuilding and restoring the great sailing yacht in Southampton, England, finishing the job in 1991. What woodwork the riverbank’s mud had failed to preserve, he replaced with Burmese teak that had been salvaged from a cargo ship that sank in 1917 in the Irish Sea. Sadly, the New Zealander died just after completing the spectacular restoration. And so the yacht found her way to the Rockefeller family in the late 1990s, and they kept her in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, until 2002.
That’s when a Greek shipping heir discovered her—and decided to make her his own.
“Our father was an ambassador from Greece to Holland, Kuwait, and other places, so we traveled a lot in high-end circles and sailed quite a bit in the Greek islands,” says Alexis Varouxakis, who manages Aello today. “My brother wanted to buy a traditional Greek sailing yacht, so he looked all over the world for a year and a half. A broker found Aello in Fort Lauderdale, and my brother put his foot on it and said, ‘She’s mine.’ It took four and a half months of negotiations. The owner did not want to sell. He’d been using her to win classic regatta races.”
In 2003, Aello returned to Greece onboard a transport ship and began sailing the home waters she’d left nearly a century earlier. And now, for the summer of 2007, she is starting a new chapter in her storied history—offering charters for as many as 12 guests with six crew at a lowest weekly base rate of 32,000 euros, or about $4.500 per person including 25-percent expenses.
“I’m trying to find people who appreciate this kind of yacht,” explains Corrine Demougin, who selected Aello for the fleet at Fraser Yachts Worldwide—just the second Greek-flagged yacht the company has ever represented, she says. “It’s a challenge to market it.”
That’s because as storied as Aello’s history is, and as beautifully as her exterior decks and interior spaces have been restored, she remains a classic sailing yacht—with small cabins and beds, and a cluttered deck interrupted by huge butterfly windows that many of today’s charter client’s simply don’t find appealing.
“In Greece, the people really don’t understand it,” Varouxakis says. “In France and Italy, they understand the classic yachts. We think the Western Mediterranean clients and the Americans may like it. With the sails up, it’s quite amazing.”
I didn’t get a chance to go sailing when I toured Aello in Poros, Greece, but I did get a thorough look at the accommodations, and I think two or three adult couples is probably ideal for chartering onboard, even though the yacht is listed as taking 12 guests. The spaces for dining, sleeping and sitting are small compared with their modern counterparts, and children, especially, may not appreciate what this exquisite classic sailing yacht has to offer.
Luckily, Aello’s owner understands that she is a niche charter yacht—one that will be beloved by a rare few charter clients who love worldwide sailing history.
“She’s like a living thing,” Varouxakis says of Aello. “She likes to travel. This is not a yacht to make money. This is for personal pleasure.”—Kim Kavin