The year was 1892, Scottish designer George Lennox Watson received a commission from Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales for a sailing yacht. He designed His Royal Highness’ Yacht Britannia to the “Length And Sail Area Rule” as a First Class cutter and had her built alongside his America’s Cup challenger Valkyrie II at the David and William Henderson’s yard in Partick, Glasgow on the banks of the River Clyde. She was launched on April 20, 1893, a week ahead of Valkyrie II.
During her first year’s racing, Britannia had scored thirty-three wins from forty-three starts. In her second season, she won all seven races for the first class yachts on the French Riviera, and then beat the 1893 America’s Cup defender Vigilant in home waters.
Royal sailing yacht Britannia’s racing success would last decades amassing 231 wins and taking home another 129 flags.
King George V requested that his beloved yacht, the Britannia, be scuttled upon his death. On 10 July 1936, after Britannia had been stripped of her spars and fittings, the empty hulk laid at her buoy in Cowes Roadsher hull, where she was towed out to St Catherine’s Deep, somewhere west of Ventnor and south of the Needles, and she was sunk by HMS Winchester, commanded by Captain W.N.T. Beckett RN. Nobody is supposed to know the exact location of where the famous yacht Britannia found it’s resting place, but to this day fishermen from the island report having snagged nets on her.
Fast forward to 1994, the only exact replica of ‘The King’s Yacht’ Britannia was commissioned (royal approval by HM the Queen) and built in the Russian port of Arkhangelsk, inside the Arctic Circle, and financed by a Norwegian magnate, Mr Sigurd Coates. “It cost a tenth of the price of what I would have to have paid for it at a western European shipyard,” Coates tells Bergens Tidende. 15 million kroner and 12 years later, she was completed. But the new shipyard owner had decided to keep the yacht for himself. After three years of legal battles, she was put to sea at Arkhangelsk on 11 June en-route to Northern Norway. By February 2012 she was brought west and south to Cowes, arriving home safely under the guardianship of her new owner, Minicast Holdings Ltd, Gibraltar, which, upon its completion, will be donating the use of the yacht for a minimum of 10 years to the Britannia Trust to be a flagship for charities around the world.
K1 Britannia Ltd, will oversee the refit of the Britannia replica, which will be done by Venture Quays, East Cowes. Venture Quays was originally built in 1935 by British aero and marine-engineering company Saunders-Roe.
The Royal Yacht will be rebuilt according to her 1931 specification when the original Britannia was refitted with a Bermuda rig and converted to the J-Class. Upon completion, she will have the largest wooden mast in the world!
The hull and deck of the replica yacht Britannia are sound, but the interior needs to be completely refitted. Restoration work includes fitting new deck hardware, new interior, new mast, rigging, sails, engines and generators. The aim is to use her for a whole range of projects, activities, and charitable projects around the world.
Stefano Faggioni is to act as chief interior designer, with the aim of making the interior of the new Britannia look as much like the original as possible, but with modern amenities.
The reconstruction team is now seeking sponsors to design and build each item that was on board the original Britannia. Click the following link fo more information on the Britannia trust, and how you may help assist the restoration.
George Lennox Watson “Britannia” Specifications:
LOA: 172.0 (end of bowsprit to end of boom) * LOD: 121.5 ft (37.0 m) * LWL: * Beam: 23.66 ft (7.21 m) * Draft: 15 ft (4.6 m) * Ballast: * Displacement: 221 tons * Sail Area: 10,328 sq ft (959.5 m2) (1893) * Yard Number: 366 * Hull material: Wood construction * Rig: Gaff-rigged cutter * Designer: Watson * Built by: D&W Henderson Shipyard Ltd * Year launched: April 20th, 1893 * Restored By: Scuttled (July 10th, 1936) * Original Owner: Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. * Current Owner: * Sail Number: K1