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William Fife III 108 ft Gaff-Rigged Schooner 1931/2008



William Fife III 108 ft Gaff-Rigged Schooner 1931/2008

Designer William Fife III
Builder William Fife & Son, Fairlie
Date 1931
Length overall 133 ft 10 in / 40.78 m
Length deck 107 ft 7 in / 32.8 m
Length waterline 78 ft 1 in / 23.8 m
Beam 20 ft 6 in / 6.25 m
Draft 13 ft 9 in / 4.2 m
Displacement 155 Tonnes
Construction Teak on oak and teak
Gross Tonnage 93 Tons
Engine Gardner 6LXDT 275 hp turbo diesel
Location Spain
Price EUR 6,500,000

These details are provisional and may be amended




Named after one of the brightest of stars, the William Fife III schooner ALTAIR’s near mythical status in the classic yacht world is all for very good reason - this yacht has become the standard-bearer for the cause of authenticity since her landmark restoration in 1987. While important as the yacht that started what has become the classic yacht revival, that role is as nothing to her own status at the top of this hierarchy. ALTAIR is the ultimate vintage yacht – and surely one of the world’s most beautiful works of mind and hand. Always the darling of the classic regatta fleet and often winning her class, in more recent years she has succeeded in paying homage to her original owner’s unfulfilled desire to safely sail to the South Sea Islands. Her dimensions have allowed for the modern comforts that a smaller classic will not; all discreetly concealed and allowing her to cruise anywhere. Above all, she is blessed with the spirit engendered by her original designer, the incomparable William Fife III. As one of the very few classic yachts of her vintage afloat with unbroken Lloyd's ✠100A1 classification, having passed survey again with flying colours in 2021, ALTAIR is in her element - as ready to cruise the world as she is for racing.



"[ALTAIR] presents in exceptional condition for a vessel that is now over 90 years old and is a tribute to the shipyard’s build quality and a credit to [her] owners and her crew that a vessel of this age is found to be in such pristine condition."




- c.15M of Douglas fir replacement plus graving pieces
- Local small repairs
- Varnish stripped and re-finished w. 12 x coats Epifanes high gloss varnish
- All fittings removed, re-galvanized, re-painted, re-fitted
- All blocks stripped, serviced as necessary re-varnished
- All shrouds and cables sanded and treated with 50/50 Owatrol/ Epifanes
- All electronic and communications wires replaced

Sanded filled and faired where necessary
- Then undercoat with International Top Lac
- and 3 coats of International Top Lac Snow White

- Sand blasted
- Filled and faired around water line
- Some caulking repair along the hull
- Applied Hempels Underwater Primer (2 coat)
- Applied Hempels Hard Racing Tec Cel (2 coats)
- Seacocks & thru-hulls checked and serviced

- Re-painted

- Refit, to Lloyd's where required

- All 16 x chainplates removed repaired and refitted
- All bolts replaced in 630 aluminium bronze with isolators on all chain plates
- Chainplates all repaired: welded with iron welding rods then reheated
- Then shot blasted, galvanised, exterior painted
- Repairs to frame at starboard aft chainplate
- Stem repairs in way of bobstay fitting
- Replacement lower panel in bulwark at starboard davit
- A-bracket realigned. Bolts replaced in 630 nickel aluminium bronze

- Repair to heel of fore mast
- All fittings removed, re-galvanized, re-painted
- All other fittings repaired and refitted as necessary
- All blocks stripped, serviced as necessary, re-varnished
- All hoops treated and re-leathered
- New standing rigging by Jochen Gnass/ Toplicht (2020)

Hull - Topsides
- Sanded filled and faired where necessary
- Undercoat International Top Lac
- Top coats 3 x International Top Lac Snow White
Hull - Underbody
- Sand blasted
- Filled and faired around water line
- Painted with Pettit Ultima system
On Deck
- All exterior varnish stripped, re-finished with Epifanes clear varnish
- Bulwarks stripped and treated with Owatrol Deck Oil
- First 10/12 coats of D1 then 6 coats D2

- All areas sanded, prepared, under coated with Resene
- Deck heads through out Resene semi gloss white
- All non-varnished bulkheads Resene Half Astra semi gloss finish
- All guest accommodation walnut stripped and new French polish applied
- Saloon & corridor stripped, refinished 4 x Epifanes Wood Finish; 2 x Epifanes Rubbed Effect
- Inside of deck hatches stripped and sanded
- Varnish in dog house. Around windows and some step repairs
- Re-sealing of anchor chain spurling/ hawse pipes
- Adjusting, replacing/ repairing/ re-sealing of all shower trays and associated woodwork
- Work to deckhead trim in way of new electric cables

- New electrical installation to Lloyd's by McKay Marine Electrical
- New switchboards
- Complete electrical wiring and controls
- New CZone digital monitoring and system information
- All water pumps serviced and or replaced
- All water tanks replaced in polypropylene (fresh, grey and black)
- New 316 stainless steel supports for black water tank
- New custom made Black Water Treatment plant
- All black water pipes and connections replaced
- All pumps serviced and or replaced
- All grey water pipes and connections have been replaced
- Some new elements fresh water system where necessary for rerouting or repair

- All AHUs cleaned and serviced
- All ducting replaced
- All coolant lines replaced with thermo fused insulated pipes
- All valves are now plastic as well
- All flexible joints have been replaced and re-insulated
- Drains only been replaced where needed
- Main chiller unit serviced; 4 x new compressors added; base replaced
- Pumps serviced or replaced

- New compressors and lines to both fridges
- Main galley fridge has new condensing plates
- Freezer has new insulation on the lines
- The ice makers are new

- Main engine off boat teardown, inspection, top end rebuild
- Main engine gearbox off boat rebuild
- New SPW Variprop 4-bladed propeller
- New Onan MDKDK 7 kW night generator to lazarette
- Newly engineered, custom made autopilot (2023)

Major Refit under Lloyd's Supervision

Works included
- New stem
- New forefoot
- Floor bolts removed and replaced (160 in total)
- All frames closely inspected and attended to as required
- Full rig removed, spars & blocks stripped, serviced, varnished and replaced
- All brightwork stripped and re-finished
- Deck hatches removed and re-bedded
- Full interior French polished
- Installation of a black water treatment system
- New air conditioning plant
- Modernised refrigeration system

- Major Restoration


ALTAIR HISTORY 1930 to 1985

- Launch date: May 15th 1931
- Built to Lloyd's ✠18A1 ✠LMC

By 1930, 74-year-old William Fife Junior (“III”) may well have presumed his days of designing and his yard building such a vessel - a beautiful throwback to the pre-First World War heyday of the large schooner yacht - were over, particularly in the midst of the Great Depression. But until 1931 yacht building on the Clyde had continued to ride a post First World War high; and some clients were simply impervious to world financial trends.

ALTAIR’s commissioning owner, 45-year-old retired cavalry officer Captain Guy Hardy MacCaw’s family fortune came from the east: the highly lucrative manufacture and trade in jute by their Calcutta-based firm Kettlewell, Bullen & Co. MacCaw was born in Calcutta in 1886, but followed a British military career as a Lancers and Hussars officer after his father became a successful Liberal politician and Member of the UK Parliament.

That MacCaw’s military career is rather foggy to research may back up handed down tales from long gone members of ALTAIR’s original crew that he had been in Military Intelligence, and that T.E. Lawrence of Arabia had been an on board guest. Fluent in Russian, MacCaw is believed to have been a close aide to Lord Kitchener and Brigadier-General John Hanbury-Williams in UK/ Russia negotiations during the First World War, and - possibly working with Altair's next owner Walter Runciman - in discussions with Nazi Germany in the years leading to the Second World War.

However, McCaw’s cloak and dagger exploit most relevant to our story was successfully hiding until March 1931 that he was Fife’s client for the 108 ft schooner in build 1930-1931 at Fairlie, two months before her launch. McCaw’s apparent tendency to spend well beyond his perceived means was revealed during that winter when a financial legal case against him by his estranged first wife hit the headlines. The case was settled in February 1931 with the ALTAIR connection apparently unknown.

MacCaw’s desire - recorded for posterity in a letter to William Fife Jr that is on board - was for a boat “capable of sailing to the South Sea Islands with no anxiety.” He got that for sure, but Altair only finally sailed the Pacific Ocean quite recently, in present ownership. Guy McCaw may have enjoyed ALTAIR for only two seasons, occasionally racing on the Solent and cruising no further south than deep into the Bay of Biscay, to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, but his dream ship became everyone’s dream ship.

Perhaps through political affiliations, early in 1933 ownership in ALTAIR transferred to Royal Yacht Squadron member, shipowner and prominent Liberal politician The Right Hon. Walter Runciman, M.P., of Doxford Hall, Chat Hill, Northumberland and the Hebridean Isle of Eigg. Runciman was no stranger to Fife schooners, his father, also Walter, having commissioned the similarly sized schooner ASTHORE from Fife in 1902. In Runciman’s ownership, ALTAIR cruised the extended English Channel and the west coast of Scotland.

In 1938, 'Bristol' aircraft and vehicle manufacturer William George Verdon-Smith, CBE, became ALTAIR’s third owner. Her home mooring may have been at Poole, Dorset, where his family had a substantial summerhouse at Sandbanks. In Verdon-Smith’s ownership ALTAIR was requisitioned by the UK Admiralty to participate in the war effort, it is believed in anti-submarine and/or de-gaussing work.

She survived, of course, and in 1949, by now Sir W.G. Verdon-Smith sold her to José Augusto Mendonça e Vasconcelos of Lisbon; the start of ALTAIR’s long association with the Iberian Peninsula. After a period recorded owned by a Swiss bank, in 1952 ALTAIR fell into the hands of the couple who would preserve her almost complete originally in a 34 year love affair of gentle cruising in the Western Mediterranean out of Barcelona: textile entrepreneurs Miguel Sans Mora & Maria Esther Sans Avecedo.

©2024 Iain McAllister/ Sandeman Yacht Company Ltd.




ALTAIR's purchase from Miguel Sans Mora in 1985 by Swiss inventor, businessman and car collector Albert Obrist, and her subsequent authentic but practical restoration at Southampton Yacht Services, began with a chance meeting; the kind that was bound to result in something special. The revival of interest in older, classic yachts was in its infancy when Obrist chartered the Fife ketch BELLE AVENTURE in Sardinia in the mid 1980s. BELLE AVENTURE's captain at this time, Paul Goss, had Fife evangelists Donn Costanzo and Jeffrey Law among the crew, and all three knew that ALTAIR was available to be restored.

After an epic voyage from Barcelona to Southampton that revealed much of what ALTAIR urgently needed, she hauled out at Shamrock Quay (the site of the old Camper & Nicholsons Northam yard, formerly J.G. Fay & Co.) for a major 18-month restoration led by Captain Paul Goss that set a new bar in authenticity carefully married to keeping ALTAIR practical and comfortable by modern standards.

After re-launch in the summer of 1987 ALTAIR's life changed forever, with a sailing programme far removed from her gentle first half century, but nothing more than William Fife designed and built her for. Apart from, of course, looking like new, the most noticeable feature was her suit of "Altair Cream" Dacron sails by her original sailmakers, Ratsey & Lapthorn of Cowes - made to look like the original cotton suit. She became a regular at the growing number of Classic yacht regattas on both North Atlantic coasts.

In 1993 ALTAIR returned to Spanish ownership with highly successful businessman Alberto Cortina. Through the mid to late 1990s she gained a reputation as an incredibly efficient sailing machine, with Mediterranean duels against the Alfred Mylne ketch THENDARA and the Herreshoff gaff schooner MARIETTE becoming the stuff of legend.

After a quieter period berthed at Antibes, in 2005 ALTAIR was purchased by Californian commercials and music video director Joe Pytka who had fallen head over heels in love and put her through a major refit at Fairlie Restorations after which she sailed to the waters of her birth and won the 2008 Fife Regatta on the Firth of Clyde. ALTAIR then enjoyed Mediterranean and Caribbean seasons with countless regatta successes. In 2015 she was line honours and corrected time overall winner of the Panerai Transat Classique, sailing the 3000 miles from Lanzarote, Canary Islands to Fort-de-France, Martinique in 13 days, 3 hours, 12 minutes, 53 seconds, at an average speed of 8.8 knots. Later that year ALTAIR entered the current ownership of a Fife connoisseur.

During the past seven years she finally accomplished Guy MacCaw's dream, sailing all the way down to New Zealand. New Zealand's strict handling of the Covid pandemic put paid to further voyaging, and she was shipped back to Europe in 2022.

©2024 Iain McAllister/ Sandeman Yacht Company Ltd.



Built to Lloyd's ✠18A1 ✠LMC
In Class Lloyd's ✠100A1 ⋇LMC (most recent cert. 29 Aug 2021)

- Carvel teak planking on sawn oak frames
- Bronze fastened
- Teak wood keel
- Galvanised steel floors
- Teak laid deck over marine plywood substrate
- Teak superstructures
- Douglas fir and spruce rig



- Teak laid deck on marine plywood (1987)
- Varnished teak superstructures
- Varnished teak capped bulwarks
- Removable bronze stanchions and guard rails

- 4 x HUTTON-ARCO 60 winches, manual for runners
- 6 x Lewmar 803 24 V electric winches for main sheet and hoist
- 6 x HUTTON-ARCO 60 winches, manual

- Original Thomas Reid anchor windlass and warping drum
- 2 x Original galvanized fisherman anchors
- 2 x 100 m 21 mm stud link galvanized anchor chains



The original French polished walnut interior of ALTAIR is considered one of the most beautiful and authentic in any yacht. The panelling, door furniture and bathroom fittings are all from 1931. In 2007 all nickel and chrome interior fittings were removed and re-plated with her interior freshly French polished and hand painted. And again 2020-2022, while in enforced layup during New Zealand's long Covid pandemic lockdown, all interior surfaces were stripped and refinished with French polish, varnish and paint as appropriate.

In summary the accommodation below has an owner’s suite, guest VIP suite; small double cabin, two guest single cabins, skipper’s cabin and crew quarters for 7. There are two head compartments, a separate shower, a day head and head with bath and shower. The original Blake WC has been beautifully preserved, but while appearing to be manual, it is actually electrically operated.

From the spacious deck house – over the engine room, companionway steps descend to a corridor from which the principal accommodation is accessed.

Immediately to each side are single berth guest cabins, both attractively laid out. Next forward to port is the owner’s bathroom with WC, large bath and drop down wash basin. Opposite across the corridor is a shower room, easily reached from the guest cabins.

Again to port is a day head compartment and then the navigation and chart space with a guest stateroom with generous long single berth, washbasin and furniture.

Forward of the shower to starboard are two guest staterooms, one of which is a double and each fully furnished, also with washbasins.

The doorway forward opens to the main saloon; panelled and magnificently furnished with seating both sides, generous cabinets and to starboard the dining table.



- Spruce spars throughout (fully serviced in 2020 refit, new Ash spreaders 2007)
- 1 x spinnaker pole
- 1 x jackyard
- 1 x Staysail boom

- Standing & running rigging fully overhauled and serviced 2021
- Galvanized 7x7 18 mm wire for stays for headsails and staysails
- All galvanized head gear on bowsprit
- All lower shrouds soft eye hand spliced and seized around galvanized hearts.
- Lower ends of shrouds are wormed, parceled, and served
- Galvanized, stainless & bronze rigging screws
- All eyes around mast heads are leathered in addition to serving
- Running rigging: Marlow braid polyester/ Dynema
- Jiggers and Runners: hard lay English braid 3-strand/ Dynema

- Queen Mts, racing (Incidence)
- Main Jackyard Topsail (Incidence)
- Main Topsail Racing (Incidence)
- Gaff Mainsail Racing (Ratsey & Lapthorn)
- Jib Top 3 Cruising (Ratsey & Lapthorn)
- Jib Top 2 Cruising (Ratsey & Lapthorn)
- Jib Top 1 Racing (Incidence)
- Jib 3 Cruising (Ratsey & Lapthorn)
- Jib 2 Racing (Incidences)
- Jib 1 Racing (Incidence)
- Jib 2 Cruising (Ratsey & Lapthorn)
- Staysail 1 Racing (Incidence)
- Staysail 1 Yankee Racing (Incidence)
- Staysail 1 (Small) Cruising (Ratsey & Lapthorn)
- Ballooner Racing (Incidence)
- Ballooner Racing (Ratsey & Lapthorn)
- Asymmetric Spinnaker Racing (Ratsey & Lapthorn)
- Reacher Spinnaker Racing (Ratsey & Lapthorn)
- Gollywobbler Racing (Incidence)
- Fisherman Racing (Incidence)
- Gaff Foresail Cruising (Ratsey & Lapthorn)
- Gaff Foresail Racing (North)
- Fore Topsail Racing (Incidence)

- 3 x Full deck awnings by Antigua Sails
- Full set of sail covers by Antigua Sails



- Engine/ generators space accessed from hatch aft of deckhouse
- Systems space accessed from hatch in aft starboard guest cabin

- Gardner 6-cyl 6LXDT turbocharged 275 hp main engine
- Manuf. 1986; fitted 1987; realigned with v-drive 1994; rebuilds 2007 & 2021
- Twin Disc MG-511V2 1.980:1 reduction gearbox (v-drive); rebuild 2021
- Aquadrive bearings (2024)
- SPW Variprop 4-bladed propeller (2020)
- PropSpeed applied (2024)
- Max speed under power: 9 knots

- 2 x 27 kW Cummins Onan MDKDL generators
- 1 X 7 kW Cummins Onan MDKDL night generator at lazarette (2021)

Complete electrical refit to Lloyd's (2020)
- New switchboards
- Complete electrical wiring and controls
AC System
- 2 x Mastervolt Mass Combi Pro 24/3500-100 3500 W chargers/ inverters
- 1 x Mastervolt shore power isolating transformer (110 V or 220 V to 24 V)
DC System
- Mostly 24 V; some 12 V
- Charging by engine alternator and above chargers
- Service batteries: Mastervolt 6800 1,500 Ah 2 V Gel, connected in series (2021)
- Engine start batteries 200 Ah (2021)
- CZone digital monitoring and system information
- All lighting systems are 24 V
- All sockets 220 V 13 A

- 704 Gal / 3,200 L Fuel: (4 x tanks)
- Twin Racor fuel separators
- Fuel transfer: 220v pump and rotary pump
- 1001 Gal / 5,000 L Water: (2 x composite tanks, 2021)
- 2 x Isotemp 50 L 230 V electric hot water cylinders (2007)
- Twin Aqua Major water pressure system (new pumps 2007)
- HEM 25/100 series watermaker; up to 4000 L / day
- 286 Gal / 1,300 L Grey water: (2 x composite tanks, 2021)
- 220 Gal / 1,000 L Black water holding stainless steel
- 300 L Black water treatment stainless steel
- Hamann HL-Cont Super Mini WC effluent treatment plant (2007, rebuilt 2023)

- Condaria air con throughout: reverse cycle, individual controls to all cabins (2007)



- Furuno TZ 48 mile radar (2014)
- Furuno GP 33 sat nav
- B&G Anemometer (360 degree wind direction)
- B&G Beat indicator
- B&G Analogue & LCD repeaters
- B&G Rudder indicator
- B&G Barograph Barometer
- B&G Digital Depth sounder
- B&G Steering compasses
- B&G Flux Gate compass
- Navigation computer: Time Zero chart plotter; AIS (2014)

- Mini Fleet broadband sat comms (2014)
- 6 x Hand-held Icom VHF
- Mini M Satcom
- Cobham sat phone (2014)
- Pep Wave router and antenna 4G/5G (2021)
- Sailor VHF radio at nav station (2014)
- Communication computer (2014)
- 2 x A/G Neovo Monitors
- 1 x Epson Stylus SX415 printer

- CD / radio unit
- Flat screen TV & DVD player in saloon
- 5G/4G RUTX50 + Antennas (2023)



To Lloyd's Classification

- 2 x Manual bilge pumps
- 1 x Engine driven bilge / fire pump
- 1 x 220 V Bilge pump; doubles as fire pump
- 1 x 24 V Bilge pump; doubles as fire pump

- 11 x Fire extinguishers

- 18 x Life jackets
- 6 x Kru 150 NT offshore life jackets (2014)
- 10 x 150 NT Ocean Spinlock life jackets (2014)
- 10 Personal AIS Transponders (2014)
- 2 Life rings with strobes
- 2 x 8-person Zodiac Survivetec life rafts (2011; serviced 2024)
- 1 x Jon Buoy man overboard module (2014)
- 1 x Light and smoke beacon (2010)
- Signal flags

- Emergency tiller
- Lloyds approved alarm panel (2007/2022)
- Alarm systems for bilges, grey water, black water, fire, smoke & gas
- 1 x Medaire medical chest
- 2 x Medaire first responder kits
- 1 x Steiner Navigator Pro 7 x 50 Binoculars



- Accessed forward to starboard from saloon; aft from crew WC/ shower
- Single berth
- Washbasin
- Small sofa
- Hanging locker

- Accessed forward to port from saloon; aft from crew mess
- For equipment list see DOMESTIC EQUIPMENT below

- Sofa/ berths with bunks over to port and starboard
- Stowage outboard and under sofa berths
- Large drop leaf table
- Hanging lockers forward
- Lockers
- Canting galvanised ladder to scuttle forehatch in deckhead
- Clock and barometer
- 2 x Electric fans
- Deckhead lights

- Sideboards and lockers to port and starboard
- Chain lockers with pipe cots to port and starboard



- 2 x Stainless steel sinks (2007)
- Gaggenau electric oven (2009)
- Miele 2 x burner gas hob
- Midea 2 x burner gas hob
- Miele 2 x ring electric induction hob
- Falmed electric fan
- Fridge / deep freeze (major overhaul 2020; new compressors, plates)
- 12 x Sets Denby crockery for crew
- 12 x Sets acrylic glasses for crew
- 12 x Sets cutlery for crew
- Galley utensils
- LG Washing machine (2023)
- LG Dryer located below saloon sole
- U-Line Ice maker (2009)
- Wine cooler in saloon
- CD / radio unit in saloon
- Flat screen TV & DVD player in saloon



- Original Fife 21 ft / 6.4 m clinker teak launch 1931; Albin 12 hp inboard engine
- Clinker wooden 14 ft / 4.25 m sailing gig (J Perry 1987 - copy of original)
- Ribtech 18 ft / 5.5 m tender; Yamaha 4 stroke 150 hp outboard (2018)



- 1 x Mediterranean style boarding ladder
- 1 x Standard boarding ladder
- 1 x Varnished teak deck table can seat up to 10 for a formal meal
- 8 x Teak deck chairs
- 2 x Teak sun loungers + small teak table
- 8 x Easy inflate fenders and covers, flat pack to store



Video and sailing photos: Richard Langdon/ Ocean Images
At anchor: Bruce Thomas


These particulars have been prepared from information provided by the vendors and are intended as a general guide. The purchaser should confirm details of concern to them by survey or engineers inspection. The purchaser should also ensure that the purchase contract properly reflects their concerns and specifies details on which they wish to rely.


Sandeman Yacht Company

Brokerage Of Classic & Vintage Yachts