Gitana was ordered by Baroness Julie de Rothschild in 1875, the 37th boat to be built by Thornycroft since the foundation of the yard in 1866 – hence file number 37 for the papers conserved in the Thornycroft archive at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich.
This was the first boat to bear the name Gitana, built entirely in steel and steam-powered, constructed on the banks of the River Thames in the London suburb of Chiswick. Her length was 24.45m, her beam 4.11m and she was delivered to Switzerland in parts, because it was not practical to navigate the River Rhine with this long boat. The ship was assembled not far from Lausanne, at Morges on Lake Geneva, at the yard of the Compagnie Générale de Navigation.
Gitana was fitted with a steam engine intended to drive her at 50kph. That promise was never fully achieved, but it was enough to earn the baroness her title of “fastest yachting lady in the world”, with a speed of 20.5 knots on Lake Geneva, a top speed of nearly 38kph – this on Gitana’s first outings in the course of constructor trials. The cruising speed of the boat was essentially around 18 knots, close to 33kph.
On 3 April 1879, Gitana confirmed her 20.5 knot world speed record in a race against the Winkelried, a boat belonging to the Compagnie Générale de Navigation.
The baroness sold this founding symbol of the Gitana saga in 1902 to Robert Thorens, one of her crew. She was renamed Minerve and converted to a fully operational cargo ship. Caught in a violent storm in November 1913, she was lost forever in Lake Geneva, at the top of Corzent (now Thonon-les-Bains). Her wreck remains there to this day.
|24,45 m||4,11 m||32t|
|Chantiers Thornycroft (Great Britain)||Screw|
|Auxiliary masts/sails (gaff-rigged schooner pattern)|