In 2012 Joanne and Roberto de Guardiola purchased one of the most iconic yachts from the past half-century from the Forbes’ heirs, the classic 1986 Feadship The Highlander, owned by the late magazine publisher Malcolm Forbes. Converting it to Highlander, the couple undertook a significant refit to modernise the yacht, with Joanne de Guardiola taking the responsibility to stay true to its original Bannenberg design very seriously. In Issue 18, we speak to the woman behind the restoration and rejuvenation of such a celebrated yacht and here, we provide readers with a preview.


Following on from their first Feadship, the 49m Audacia, which underwent three separate refits during their six years
of ownership, the de Guardiolas had developed a strong love of the Feadship and Jon Bannenberg collaboration. After discovering that the number of boats
on the water with that combination was few and far between, the couple jumped at the chance to buy one of the world’s most iconic classic Feadships, previously owned by the late Malcolm Forbes of Forbes magazine.

“We had known The Highlander and always admired Malcolm Forbes for his business sense and marketing genius,” recalls de Guardiola. “I had seen the boat and decided it was too good an opportunity to resist: it was both a Bannenberg and a Feadship and had a steel hull, which makes life on board a lot more comfortable and the yacht sit so well in the water. We went and looked at her and decided to buy her with a significant refit in mind.”

“To me it was all about going back to the lines that Bannenberg is known for and to
 the organics of what he tried to do."

De Guardiola is a designer herself and has owned her own design firm since 1997, her expertise enabling her to oversee much of the work that went into Audacia over the years. The Highlander project was no different. With a very specific vision in mind, the de Guardiolas embarked on an 18-month refit at Derecktor, with Joanne taking the reins on the design front.

“To me it was all about going back to the lines that Bannenberg is known for and to
 the organics of what he tried to do,” she explains. “I really studied how he shaped so many things: a lot of sharp angles mixing with circles. I went back to his basic design and cleaned up all the other lines that I felt were in conflict with that.”

The Highlander, when owned by the late Malcolm Forbes

Having worked on the design during the refit of Audacia, de Guardiola was able to draw from her experience and apply it to the Highlander refit. The main consideration was to look at how they, their family and friends used their first boat and tweak certain elements to better suit their needs. The most important thing was to create more outdoor spaces and dining areas with adjusting tables to maximise the versatility of the different spaces on board.

“To me a boat is about having your family and friends using it,” de Guardiola explains. “I don’t want silk or satin or tassels: I want it to be good-looking and stylish but also very practical. I certainly learned that some things lasted better on Audacia than others; I was able to see what holds up and what doesn’t. I ended up using a lot of indoor/outdoor fabrics for Highlander. We are so fortunate 
in life to have this so being able to enjoy it and share it with family and friends is really important.”

You can read the full interview with Joanne de Guardiola in Issue 18 of The Superyacht Owner. Subscribers can access it online here. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.