The high life on the high seas

When Leonardo DiCaprio sold his Cape Cod-style mansion in Malibu, the property went for $17 million.

When he wanted a little R&R off the coast of Brazil, he borrowed the 482-foot superyacht Topaz, worth $500 million.

That says something about the sport of yachting, which Kim Kavin writes in the introduction to “The Stylish Life: Yachting” (teNeues Publishing Group, 176 pages) “has never truly been about boats.

“Instead, it has always been about gaining membership into the most exclusive club on earth — a club filled with titans of industry, heads of state, entertainment moguls, and debutantes of the highest social standing. These men and women step with pedicured bare feet onto private teak decks from St. Tropez to St. Barths and beyond, seeking solitude and relaxation within a shroud of fineries that is, quite simply, unimaginable back on land.”

“The Stylish Life: Yachting” lets you imagine. Sails dot the cerulean expanse of Sydney Harbor — like so many white caps — for the start of the 2008 Hobart Yacht Race. A sailboat keels starboard as it cuts through the waves during Antigua Sailing Week, 2000. The Superyacht Hyperion, described as “one of the world’s finest sailing yachts,” calmly plies the water, blessed by a rainbow. You can practically scent the tang of the sea and feel the bracing wind against your cheek.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you say. But what about the parties? What about the celebs? No book on yachting would be complete without a shot of boats lit up in Port Hercule for the Monaco Yacht Show or one of fireworks igniting Vittoriosa Marina in Malta.

These have almost as much wattage as a squinting President John F. Kennedy — sunglasses atop his head, a cigarillo in his mouth — as he looks up from his paper aboard the family yacht Honey Fitz in the early 1960s or a contemplative President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard the former presidential yacht Sequoia.

Such photographs are often poignant portals onto subjects who do not know what we do. No two pictures are more striking in this regard than the ones juxtaposed on pages 58 and 59. On page 59 a solicitous Prince Charles and a dreamy Diana, Princess of Wales, lean on the railing of the Royal Yacht Britannia at the start of their honeymoon cruise. She’s smiling, her right hand holding her right cheek. On her left hand is her oval sapphire and diamond engagement ring.

On page 58, you can just glimpse the ring on the left hand of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, the daughter-in-law Diana never knew. But what a different effect. Clad in fitted blue pants, striped shirt and baseball cap, this princess has no need of a fairy-tale prince by her side. Rather, the duchess keeps her eye on the prize and her hands on the wheel as she races that prince, hubby William, on America’s Cup yachts in Auckland Harbor, New Zealand last year.

Two images, one of the way we were and the other of how far we have come.

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