Built in 1911, the Mariquita ended up as a houseboat in Suffolk before being restored in 2004. In 2008 I joined her for the Cowes Classics Race around the Isle of Wight. Not only was the old girl stunningly beautiful on the water, she oozed quality on board.
As we left Cowes, the journalist I was working with asked the skipper what the Marquita’s draught was? As if to answer Mariquita gently bumped the bottom at the mouth of the Medina River. “Just more than we have at the moment,” the skipper replied with a smile.
Teamwork was the order of the day and the crew assembled in a line, dressed identically in cream cotton trousers and white smocks. Only the Oakley sunglasses gave any hint of the 21st century.
The race started with light winds, but as we rounded St Catherine’s point, the southernmost tip of the island, the wind began to build.
As Mariquita heeled, more of her deck ducked under the water and waves swept the full length of the leeward deck. With no guardrails, and just a six-inch high toe rail to keep your feet inboard the risk of going over the side was ever-present. I moved cautiously.
At the mast I photographed the crew working up to their thighs in water, then I returned to the companionway for some dramatic angles. We fell into tacking duel with the Mariette, the blue schooner on the right of the photograph, and Mariquita was slowly but surely catching her on the way upwind toward the Needles.
As I shot, a wave swept a crew member off his feet, his canvas hat passed me under the water. Immediately the Mariquita’s ever-present support boat plucked him from the sea as the remaining crew brought this majestic yacht to a standstill.
The Mariette was ahead of us, but on the last leg up the Solent towards Cowes, Mariquita again closed the gap.
The picture was taken at 1/60th of a second to give the sense of movement to the water. To minimise camera shake I used a 17mm wide-angle lens which also enabled me capture some of the excitement of being on board this extraordinary yacht.
Graham Snook’s love of boats is second only to his love of photography. He studied Photographic Communication at Falmouth College of Arts before working in the darkrooms and studio at Allsport, the sports agency now part of Getty Images. In 1999 he joined Yachting Monthly as staff photographer. After fourteen years at IPC Graham went freelance and now also writes, creates virtual tours and videos for yacht and powerboat manufacturers and publications. His contact with Yachting Monthly continues as he writes and photographs their new boat tests and is their Technical Editor.
See more work by Graham Snook