Donated to the Navy the “Sister” vintage sail of 1858, she became the veteran of the fleet

Photo © Paolo Maccione

On 21 June 2022, at the Francesco Morosini Military Naval School in Venice, the ceremony of donation to the Italian Navy by the Paduan industrialist Renato Pirota of the sailing boat Sorella, launched in England in 1858, took place. from the oldest regatta in the Mediterranean, and among the oldest still sailing in the world, it surpasses the Amerigo Vespucci of 1931 in seniority becoming the veteran of the fleet. A ranking by the prestigious English magazine Classic Boat has placed it in fourth place among the most important historic boats at an international level.

Photo © Paolo Maccione


After 164 years from the launch of the historic sailing boat Sorella, a wooden auric cutter built in 1858 by the English shipyard Dan Hatcher in Southampton, she officially wears the stars and becomes part of the Italian Navy. Technically, despite an armament length of just 10.97 meters, it becomes the oldest service unit in the fleet, followed by Viri, an 11.35 meter long Skerry Cruiser launched in Finland in 1928 and the much better known Amerigo training ship. Vespucci of 101 meters, launched in Castellamare di Stabia, in the province of Naples, in 1931.

Photo © Paolo Maccione

The donation ceremony took place on 21 June 2022 at the Francesco Morosini Military Naval School in Venice in the presence of the Paduan industrialist Renato Pirota, donor and owner of Sorella for over 30 years. Present were the Captain of Frigate Marco Zanèt, deputy commander of Morosini representing the Captain of Vessel Marcello Ortiz Neri, Commander of the School, the Captain of the Vessel Giuseppe Cannatà, Head of the Sailing Office and Director of Sport Sailing, Navy and the Captain of Vessel Roberto Fazio representing of the Military Presidio Command of Venice.

Photo © Paolo Maccione

I proudly donate my boat to the Italian Navy

declared Renato Pirota

with the awareness that in addition to becoming a tool for training young students to sail, given its historicity it can also bring new generations closer to naval culture

Photo © Paolo Maccione

During the ceremony, the message of the Navy Chief of Staff, Admiral Enrico Credendino was read:

The young people who, under the colors of the Navy, will sail the waves with this boat, will be aware that they are the custodians not only of a precious vessel, but also and above all of the history and traditions that it represents, and which they will revive every time they will set their sails

As already happened on the occasion of previous donations of sailing boats to the Navy, from Viri in 1928 to Caroly in 1948, from Capricia in 1963 to Chaplin in 1974, a plaque was also affixed on board Sorella in memory of the day.

Photo © Paolo Maccione


A ranking by the prestigious English magazine Classic Boat places Sorella of 1858 in fourth place (after Britannia, Tuiga and Rowdy) among the most important boats in the world. The boat, characterized by a mirrored stern and three-quarter deck, was built in pitch pine planking on oak frames by the shipyard Dan Hatcher (1817-1880), a brilliant designer and a talented shipbuilder nicknamed by the age of 21. “King Dan”.

It has a length of 27 feet according to English measurements (8.38 meters the hull, 10.97 meters including the rig), a width of 2.74 meters, a draft of 1.50 meters and a weight of 4.5 tons.

The gaff cutter rig, distributed over five sails (mainsail, counter-sail, staysail, jib walled up on the bowsprit and bird), is approximately 65 square meters. Under the old “Thames Rules” she was classified as 8 tons and better known as Itchen Ferries, boats built both for inshore fishing for oysters and shrimp and for sailing bets on the Thames and Solent.

Some research shows that Sorella was used as an experimental gymnasium by the brothers William and George Gordon, clients and first owners of the boat, for the study of the first rudimentary stern sails called spinks, then spinker, spinniker and finally spinnaker, the famous sail adopted on almost all sailboats in the world. The intent was to make the cutter known by winning as many races as possible, thus stimulating the competition to use their sails.


Sorella’s second owner was Lieutenant Colonel F.W.J. Dugmore, former Commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron. Among the longest-lived owners is the Fuger family of Warsash, a town south of Southampton, who owned the boat for 90 years and four generations.

One of their members had the honor of participating in the historic “100 Guineas Cup”, the 1851 competition won by America around the Isle of Wight from which the America’s Cup was born, the oldest sports trophy in the world. More recently, after a restoration carried out in 1981 by former shipowner Chris Waddington, in 1988 Sorella arrived in the Mediterranean thanks to the Paduan entrepreneur Renato Pirota, a lover of naval history and former owner of another important auric cutter, Moya del 1910.

After having participated in the Tyrrhenian rallies, including Le Vele d ’Epoca di Imperia and a victorious Nioulargue from Saint Tropez, at the end of 1989 she was transferred to Trieste. In 1990 you underwent a major new restoration carried out by the Alto Adriatico shipyard in Monfalcone based on a project by the Trieste architect Carlo Sciarrelli, a cultured Italian designer of classic boats.

For Pirota he will also design Hilde, an 11-meter sloop in varnished wood launched in 1995 at the Cantiere Carlini in Rimini, defined by himself as: “She is the most beautiful! It will never happen to me to design a boat like this “. For many years Sorella has been based at the Yacht Club Adriaco in Trieste and participated in various editions of the Barcolana and in the International Hannibal Classic in Monfalcone.

The Royal Southern Yacht Club of Southampton, the Yacht Club Porto Rotondo, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, the Yacht Club Adriaco and the AIVE (Associazione Italiana Vele d’Epoca), a partnership founded among in 1982 with which Pirota continues to be associated. Although she does not appear in the registers of the Royal Yacht Squadron, due to her small size, there is evidence of her prolonged stay in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight. Today Sorella, which has an almost twin named Nellie, of smaller dimensions, is easily recognizable at sea thanks to the number 1858 shown on the sail.

Photo © Paolo Maccione


Sister joins the very small club of the oldest wooden sailing units still in active service in the world, even without being able to snatch the primacy of the USS (United States Ship) Constitution, 62 meters, the American three-masted frigate of 1797 still registered in the US Navy ship and which on the occasion of its 200th anniversary sailed.

Even older is her first-class vessel HMS (Her Majesty’s Ship, her Majesty’s Ship) Admiral Nel’s Victory of 1765, 69 meters long at base in Portsmouth, and the Swedish galleon of equal length Vasa of 1627, in Stockholm. But both are static museum ships.

Slightly younger than Sorella are the 1863 Star of India pole brig, 85 meters long, an American monument of historical interest based in San Diego as well as the oldest steel merchant ship still sailing, and the famous clipper Cutty Sark from 1869, in museum in Greenwich.

Photo © Paolo Maccione
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