In the world of yachting, the name “Fife” evokes and embodies grandeur, the best and finest qualities one could and would expect in a classic yacht, from sheer elegance to superb craftsmanship to top-notch performance.
Fife yachts have been called the “Stradivarius” and the “Ming vases” of sailing yachts. These are jewels of historical value whose lines are pure poetry still today.
There is an emblem that goes with that name, and whose sight on any dock or starting line has the same awe-inspiring effect. That is Fife’s iconic “dragon”.
The distinctive golden dragon head, some say a stylized Chinese dragon, was carved into the bow of the yacht and then extended along the hull as a cove line to the stern terminating usually in a wheat sheaf, which was then overlaid with real gold leaf. No two dragons were identical, each on William Fife Jr.’s boat was slightly different.
Fife adopted the dragon as his hallmark beginning in 1888, following the success of a 20-rater cutter called Dragon he built for Mr. F.C. Hill; he would build three of these regatta winners, all called Dragon.
Why Fife chose the figure of the dragon to distinguish his boats is not known. Whether it was the speed and prowess of this powerful and difficult to defeat mythical figure that appealed to him, or whether it was the Norse influence in region, where the Vikings landed on the shores of the Firth of Clyde with their longboats with a dragon’s head on the prow, or whether it was simply due to the of the success of the winning Dragon cutters built for Mr. Hill remains a matter of speculation.
The golden dragon of Fairlie is coveted on any bow, but by tradition it belongs exclusively to the beauties designed and built by William Fife III.