5 October 2015
3 Aug 2012

Rebuilding superyacht racing history in Cowes


Work has begun on the rebuild of K1 class yacht, Britannia, one of the champion racing yachts of her era at the turn of the twentieth century, when J Class racing was born.

She is being stripped and prepared for the next six months under cover at Venture Quays in Cowes, so that engineering and design work can commence. When completed in about 15 months time she will measure 38m with a staggeringly tall 55m mast.

Launched in 1893, K1 Britannia belonged to Kings Edward Albert and George V of England, the latter at the helm of some of her 231 victories.

Restoration and rebuild is a specific skill, with attention to the spirit of the age, replicating original designs and materials and a passion for the work all essential. Behind K1 Britannia is project manager Giuseppe Longo, and her chief architect and interior designer, Stefano Faggioni of Studio Faggioni La Spezia, both of whom have made restoration and rebuilding their passion over 11 years of working together.

K1 Britannia (far right) will be recreated as she was in her J conversion year

SuperyachtNews asked them about the challenges ahead and the importance of recreating a piece of yachting history.

“For the general arrangement I took the original lay out with a longitudinal section, to help me and to give me an idea of how the yacht was inside,” said Faggioni. “But nowadays we need things that in 1893 did not exist – for example showers and good bathrooms.” Faggioni has approached the design by keeping some eccentricities of the age and introducing new ideas.

In the ladies cabin, for example, is a bath, installed in the floor in an open plan concept in between two beds. Faggioni said, the plan “was in the original one and seemed a gorgeous idea so I repeated it.” A vertical piano in the salon is also a vestige of the original whilst a fireplace has been added to the same room and a single crew area space for ten crew according to the classic style.

Preliminary drawings of the ladies cabin show the bath in centre, a feature of the original 1931 yacht

The year to choose for dating the new K1 Britannia also presented unique complications because racing yachts of this time were constantly being upgraded to meet the rapidly forming technologies feeding a surge in racing interest.

“These yachts were the F1 racing cars of the day, every year they were updating and changing things. For example even the cabin rail changed from 2 inches to 20 inches,” said Longo. The two chose 1931, the year of her K to J class conversion, as the year to base her look and designs on. This means she will have a bermuda rig and mast measuring some 55m tall, rather than her original gaff rig that typified the smaller K Class.

On deck: credit K1 Britannia

Restoration of old yachts has a following amongst a section of superyacht owners whether of Scottish patrol boats such as Norna or Northern Sun, an ex-fisheries vessel that took her owners five years to complete. Restoring yachts of the antique age bracket of K1 Britannia, however, is difficult.

“When you get into refitting and restoring a [very old] yacht – these things don’t exist anymore,” said Longo. “Lulworth (the 1920 build 'big class' cutter and the pair’s recent project) did exist but in a very bad condition. As with the new Js coming out, which are replicas of the old yachts, K1 Britannia is a part of that wave of interest.”

K1's hull under cover in Cowes. It features original lines from her 1893 architect George Lennox Watson and was towed from Norway. Credit K1 Britannia

Creating replicas is arguably the only solution to making sure yachting history is kept alive. Once K1 Britannia is ready, everyone will be able to experience what Faggioni described as a "step back in time to taste an old elegance that has disappeared." She is intended for use as a charity vessel, part of the Britannia’s Trust’s vision. Her owner, Norwegian entrepreneur Sigurd Coates, embarked on a nineteen year journey to just reach this stage of build. Buying a Russian shipyard in 1993 specifically for K1 Britannia, he ran into legal problems which kept him from his cherished new build. Keeping firmly in the background, Coates cuts an interesting and altruistic figure, investing in a mammoth and historic restoration for the benefit of hundreds.

Related Links

K1 Britannia Website documenting the rebuild via blog and webcam
Studio Faggioni Website


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