L'Odyssée: The epic Greek poem of loss and love

When the 23.91-metre 1935 classic ketch sailing yacht L'Odyssée berthed in Porto Montenegro some 10 years ago, her fate was pretty unknown. The famed trophy winner was falling into disrepair; she was riddled with worms and leaking badly. Even in such a derelict condition, she was pulling heartstrings. L'Odyssée yacht cruisingPhoto: Engel & VölkersWhile her owner had enjoyed a long relationship with L'Odyssée, the work to keep her afloat was too costly so her restoration ground to a halt. She was put on the market around the same time as Edward Daniell, an avid sailor and Service Contractor at Porto Montenegro, sadly lost his partner last year. The couple was besotted by the elegant French lady, so “the timing was too much of a coincidence,” Daniell said. 

“Purchasing L'Odyssée meant I had an elderly mistress that took my time and money; I think my late wife was instrumental in organising this for me,” Daniell said. “Although she disliked boats and was scared of drowning, she always liked L'Odyssée. The timing of L'Odyssée coming on the market was her way of making sure that I was well looked after and had something to do.” L'Odyssée yacht cruisingPhoto: Engel & VölkersL'Odyssée was built by Mr. F. Rey of Chantiers Navals de Normandie, in Fècamp, during the interwar period to a design drawn up by Mr François Camatte. Her owner requested a Bermudian ketch that handled well and that could outpace fellow sailing yachts at regattas. When she first hit the water in June of 1935 she was around a metre and a half shorter than she is today (22.3-metres with a 16.4m LOA). 

She was constructed primarily out of oak and furnished with Oregon pine for the deck planks. Moulmein teak was laid for the fittings, hatches and gunwale. Her large 235 square-metre Bermudian sail plan was crafted by Eugène Ma riole from La Havre, and fashioned with an additional triangle sail that was to be set up when sailing downwind. She was state-of-the-art and equipped with electric lights and a 50-horsepower Renault diesel engine.L'Odyssée yacht in marinaPhoto: Engel & VölkersOn 29th June 1935, L'Odyssée embarked on her maiden voyage from Fècamp to Cannes via Gibraltar, with her owner and family onboard. Unlike the dream voyage that was envisioned, the journey was treacherous and very nearly perilous. Dire weather conditions persisted and it took 574 hours of navigation to complete the route, 320 hours of which were under sail and the remaining 253 under motor. Even without the weather abating they arrived safely, if not soundly, after travelling a total of 2,619 nautical miles. 

Little is known about L'Odyssée after this frightful passage; but the fact that she has fallen into the hands of Edward Daniell is proof that she’s been well-loved over the years. She also survived WW2 and Nazi occupation – a war which saw many pleasure vessels commission for the effort.L'Odyssée yacht cruisingPhoto: Engel & VölkersDaniell is restoring L'Odyssée back to her former glory, making great use of the astounding talent who worked at the Arsenal Shipyard before it became Porto Montenegro. “When she was lifted we discovered that she was riddled with worms – and these weren't your ordinary worms, they were the size of earthworms! They had destroyed parts of the rudder, which was fortunate as they hadn’t made it to the main hull,” Daniell said. Even these destroyed sections of L'Odyssée have been given a new lease of life and odd sections have been turned into jewellery.

The future of L'Odyssée is the classic regatta circuit, where Daniell will showcase the fruits of his labour and the value of classic restoration; even a yacht in as much disrepair as L'Odyssée can be salvaged and loved once again.  

This article was originally published in Issue 42 of SuperYacht Times newspaper. To read more stories like this one and to never again miss another issue of the SuperYacht Times newspaper, subscribe here.