One of the most outstanding ships ever built at the Benetti shipyard was the sailing vessel now named “Francesco Petrarca”. Built in wood, her keel was laid up in 1939. She was launched in 1941 under the name “Gerlando” and was built to transport marble between Carrara, just up the Tuscan coast from Viareggio, to Alexandria in Egypt – a classic route for a classic cargo!
It is interesting to note that, as late as the 1940’s, sail-powered vessels were still considered economically viable for the transportation of certain types of cargo. In 1961, the engineer Giorgio Varvaro, saw the ship languishing in an Egyptian port. It was love at first sight for Varvaro, who bought the vessel and entrusted the project of her repair and conversion to a yacht to the newly graduated naval architect Franco Anselmi Boretti.
Under Anselmi Boretti’s direction, the massive refit and conversion project was carried out at the Valdettaro yard. At her launching the vessel, now converted to an elegant yacht, was re-christened “Taitu”. She’d been re-rigged as a three masted staysail schooner.
Subsequently, Camper & Nicholson shipyard did some additional work on the yacht, under the supervision of marine surveyors from the American Bureau of Shipping. Her owner cruised the yacht extensively for the next 20 years, finally selling her to an English company who christened her as “Raphaelo”.
In 1999 she was bought by another English company. After a total refit in the port of Marseille she was christened “Francesco Petrarca” remembering the renaissance poet who was born in Arezzo just 100 miles from Viareggio.
Further refits, upgrades and works followed, as noted above. Francesco Petrarca has been well maintained and had dry docking periods every year.