Exile on mainstreet

In the early 1970s the British taxman decided it was time to clamp down on high earners and bring some money into the coffers. So the top rate of tax was hiked up to a brutal 93%. Not so great. And especially not so great if you had made a bundle of loot but somehow ‘forgotten’ to pay any taxes. As Mick Jagger said, ‘After working for eight years, I discovered at the end that no one had ever paid my taxes, and I owed a fortune. So then you have to leave the country.’ At least that was the advice of Prince Rupert Lowenstein, hired to straighten out The Rolling Stones finances’. He was also the mastermind who set up the various offshore financial arrangements which remain in place to this day.

Words by: DUNCAN QUINN

Photos by: NICOLAS RAMIREZ & YCO

With that in mind Mick, Keith and the lads decided to high tail it out of the country and voluntarily exile themselves in Villefranche in the South of France.  They proceeded to record one of the greatest rock ‘n roll albums of all time, “Exile on Mainstreet”.  All of course fueled by the huge amounts of illicit narcotics that ensured this trip, this album and this band a legendary place in rock ‘n roll history.

Supposedly the band had a lot of bust ups and did a truckload of drugs, which makes it easy to laugh at the fact that the party came to an end when Keith Richards and his Mrs were charged with possession of heroin and intent to traffic. Eventually after much manoeuvring by their lawyers and perhaps some liberal use of funds all charges were dropped.  But the party was over and they left Villefranche suddenly in November 1971, leaving behind the dog, the parrot and their kids’ toys.

Its always good to meet scallywags with stories.  And they always sound better when you’re in a beautiful place sucking in the fumes of life.  Especially when the fumes are pouring out of a tender gunning it from Nice to Monaco and the scallywag in question is a salty young English seadog who’s speciality is serious sailboats.  We’ve all heard the rule of the three F’s and the other raft of jokes about the two best days in a man’s life.  But the truth remains that there is a certain inescapable charm in being the owner of a hundred feet or so of serious sailboat.  And when that hundred feet or so is a Wally or a Swan you’re doing pretty well.

I first went sailing with a rather delectable young lady who was determined to show me the delights of Antigua Race Week.  Being a rather debauched pretense at a regatta it was right up my street.  With sea legs fueled by enough rum to keep any pirate happy I ground away at winches with a grin affixed to my face that would have made the Joker proud.  I was hooked.  And hence any chance I get to hop aboard and get stuck in I immediately take hook, line and sinker.

An acquaintance was in Antigua that year racing one of his Swans but it was many years later that a friend introduced me to Wally.  At the time they seemed so far ahead of the curve it was quite ridiculous.  The clean lines they created by feeding all the rigging through tubes in the deck was unheard of.  It is commonplace now, but stands testament to the design genius that is Wally.  This makes sense when you understand that Wally was created in 1994 by a guy who wanted to build a yacht for himself and his family that combined the performance of a Maxi racing yacht and the luxury of, well, nothing like it.  Built from composite materials to ensure low weight and high speed then decked out inside like your favorite minimalist hotel there’s just nothing you can’t love.  All of their sailboats are beautiful, refined, and make a statement in any company.  Every time I’ve seen one at anchor be it in the Caribbean or elsewhere it simply steals the show.  I even like their powerboats which is saying something for someone who is Gin-palace and cigarette boat phobic.

Where Wally is a little more glamorous than Swan, Swan certainly has the history and years of heritage to make it something truly elegant and special.  Grown from a dream in 1966 of building a 10m fiberglass yacht capable of cruising and racing Swan has evolved over time into the elegant yet racy stuff it is today.  That may well have something to do with Leonardo Ferragamo getting involved in the late 1990’s but either way its a fierce combination of Finnish design and Italian flair with some of the coolest racing series out there.

So what was I doing in the South of France anyway?  I was just sorting out a few things when the aforementioned seadog offered to take me aboard for a little look around.  And thus I found myself blasting from Nice to Monaco via Villefranche.  Just for a quick look-see, you see.  Frankly either Kim or Zig-Zag would do nicely.  And if you fancy it either could be yours.  Just get a hold of Ben at YCO in Monaco and see what you can swing.  Although he sells them he has also been known to charter them out to the right crowd, if you know what I mean.

After all, its nice to watch someone else stand in the shower tearing up hundred dollar bills.  But until you’ve done it yourself you’ll never really fully understand what its like to spend a fortune getting wet…

Words by DUNCAN QUINN Photos by NIcolas Ramirez & YCO