26 years after Lady Diana’s death, Dodi Al Fayed’s two superyachts, the Cujo and the Jonikal, both suffered tragic fates. The Princess of Wales had spent her last summer aboard both vessels, on the shores of the Riviera.
The tragedy has come full circle. The Cujo, the yacht that hosted Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed’s love affair, sank off Beaulieu-sur-Mer on the Côte d’Azur on Saturday, July 29. The boat, measuring around twenty meters in length, is said to have suffered damage to its hull, causing it to sink.
According to a statement shared on Facebook by the Alpes-Maritimes Gendarmes, a division of the French army, a distress call was made by passengers at around 12:30 local time on July 29. Less than an hour after the call, a rescue team arrived on the scene to find that the bow of the vessel was partially submerged.
“The yacht’s cabins were already flooded, and only a few suitcases located in the galley and on deck could be recovered by the gendarmes,” reads the press release.
The seven occupants on board had already been evacuated and were safely aboard a nearby lifeboat. Rescue crews and passengers then quickly left the area, while the boat sank to a depth of 2,500 feet on the ocean floor.
The remarkable yacht had been launched in 1972, at the request of her first owner, John von Neumann. According to the Robb Report, Von Neumann commissioned the Italian shipyard Baglietto to design a vessel “faster than any other motoryacht at sea”. Subsequently, Von Neumann sold the boat to arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, who then passed it on to his nephew, Dodi Al-Fayed.
Although Princess Diana was one of the most notable guests on board, the seductive and wealthy Dodi Al-Fayed also welcomed other celebrities on board, such as Clint Eastwood, Tony Curtis, Bruce Willis and Brooke Shields. Lady Diana herself spent her last summer on board. The rest of the story is now common knowledge. On August 30, the 36-year-old princess and Dodi Al-Fayed set sail for Paris. That evening, pursued by photographers through the streets of the capital, the Mercedes S280 in which they were travelling collided with a pillar in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel, at a speed of 110 km/h.
After the deaths of Lady Di and Dodi, the Cujo fell into a state of decrepitude and was withdrawn from service in 1999. After several years in storage, Dodi’s cousin Moody Al-Fayed purchased the vessel and brought it back to life. He then sold it to Simon Kidston, a British car collector and restorer, who became the boat’s last registered owner.
Excursions on the Jonikal
The last summer shared by Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed has been interpreted in many ways: a fiery love affair, a false publicity stunt, a temporary fling, a maneuver to exasperate another suitor, or the beginning of a lifelong commitment…
But in addition to summer escapades aboard Cujo, this sensational couple also spent time on the superyacht Jonikal. Which was sold in June 2023.
Renamed “Bash“, this vessel was designed in the 1980s by architect Vincenzo Ruggiero and built by superyacht shipyard Codecasa before being launched in 1990. The yacht can accommodate up to 18 guests in nine cabins, not including accommodation for 26 crew members. Among her many striking features, the Bash offers a Jacuzzi, a swimming platform, a sun deck, a formal dining room, a main salon, a bar and even a workspace. With its dark woodwork and coffered ceilings, the interior recalls the Arts and Crafts style of the early 20th century.
Equipped with Wärtsilä engines, the yacht can reach a cruising speed of 15 knots and a top speed of 20 knots. Although the exact sale price has not yet been disclosed, when last listed for sale, the yacht was listed at $10 million.
So, for their last summer together, Diana and Dodi spent time on the Riviera coast, between Cujo and Jonikal. A heavenly setting for the princess’s “summer of freedom”, as the media reported at the time. A summer that was also her last.
Featured photo : ©GettyImages
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