8 Feb 2012
Royal yacht begins long awaited rebuild
A replica of famous royal racing yacht, Britannia, built in 1897 for Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, is due to start her long awaited rebuild in Cowes.
The 40m hull was towed by tug from Son, Norway, taking eight days to reach Cowes on 4 February. The Britannia Trust, which is overseeing the rebuild, has recently launched the website www.k1Britannia.org to track her progress via blog, video and images.
The reconstruction process, right from her docking in the dry-docks to final unveiling of the restored yacht will be filmed. A webcam to stream live video from the dockyard is also planned.
Her short journey to Cowes belies a much longer, troublesome journey to be rebuilt. In 1993, Norwegian entrepreneur Sigurd Coates bought Solombala shipyard in Russia to undertake the massive project.
Problems arose when Coates sold his shares to the yard and had his rights arrogated to the yacht, which was rebranded the Tsar Peter. He managed to relocate her, after much time and many legal wrangles, to Son, Norway in 2009.
Financing the yacht was a further issue with Coates unable to find funds to complete the build. However, Gibraltar company, Minicast Holdings recently bought the yacht off Coates and donated her to the Britannia Trust for the next ten years, to develop her as a charity vessel. The investment is a breakthrough as it allows a long and cherished project to recommence.
The next stage for Britannia is fitting-in new deckware, restoring her interior, mast, rigging and sails. Her cradle is in place at the Southboats Yard in Venture Quays, Cowes and she is expected to be lifted in by the end of the month.
Britannia hull leaving Son, Norway. Photos courtesy of www.Lokalmagasinet.no. Photographer: Badi Batchelor, Norway
The return of Britannia is seen as somewhat of a homecoming, and one coloured by emotion. The original Britannia followed her last owner, King George V (Albert’s son) to the grave on his request. On 10 July 1936, after being rid of spars and fittings, her hull was sunk in a ceremony off the isle of Wight.
Scott Ward of the Britannia Trust said:
“On 4 Feb the Britannia came home to Cowes…This is really a dream come true, and a heart's desire for so many.”
The hull in Cowes, credit Tim Addison at cowes.co.uk
Britannia was a successful racing yacht and a legend of her time. In the year of her launch she scored 33 wins out of 43 races and won all the seven races for large yachts on the French Riviera in her second season. She was later converted into a J-Class with a bermuda rig and at the end of her racing career she had scored 231 wins.
K1 Britannia pictured (far right) in her racing heyday in the 1930s'. K1 denotes her sail class, K standing for the United Kingdom and K1 reserved for the King's yacht.
Elsewhere in the UK another major classic yacht refit is underway with 64m Shemara starting a 3 year refit by Burgess Marine in Portsmouth.
The Britannia Project Website
Burgess Marine Website
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