Replica of royal yacht Britannia arrives in Cowes

Thursday, 9 February 2012

On King George V’s death in January 1936, what should happen to his massive and famous J Class Yacht Britannia? He’d left instructions that she was to ‘follow him to the grave’. Stripped of all her spars and fittings, her hull was towed out from Cowes and sunk off St Catherine’s Deep, somewhere west of Ventnor and south of the Needles, on July 1st.

Photo courtesy of Photographer: Badi Batchelor, Son, Norway

The remains of her hull are there today, rotting in a deep watery grave. Nobody is supposed to know the exact location, though fishermen from the island have snagged nets on her.

An exact replica of her hull was built, in 1993, at a frozen shipyard north of the Arctic Circle, in Russia’s port of Arkhangelsk, and financed by a Norwegian magnate. Moved to Norway in 2009. Since then she’s been overwintered in Northern Norway. From there, and in January this year her hull went on a final leg of her journey, trekking west and south – to Cowes. As you might expect, after Arctic winters and battered by storms on her way here, the hull looks the worse for wear. On February 4th, 2012 she at last reached her new home, alongside in Cowes, all 40 metres (120 feet) of her. The plan: for her completion to commence, and for the Trust that now owns her, to invest in fitting-in new deck ware, restoring her interior, her mast, rigging and sails, back to what they were in the Classic Days of Cowes Yachting.

Photo: Courtesy of Hamo Thornycroft -  

The goal: for her to become a flagship for charity, reaching out to underprivileged children, war veterans and to be used as a fundraising venue for upcoming charities in the UK and across the globe.

Britannia and the rebuilding project have been acquired by 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 used as a flagship for charity. Britannia will be fully restored to her pristine condition at her new home in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Following completion of the restoration, she will be mobilized as a drawcard for the charity works envisaged for it.

In order to achieve this, the Britannia Trust has executed a corporate charity strategy for her usage to ensure that such success can be achieved. The Britannia is ideally suited to be used for charitable works, and indeed makes for an exciting and extraordinary story that can attract and draw thousands of people every year to hear her story, and to be Britannia is indeed worthy of a full and immaculate reconstruction. Its former namesake was indeed privileged to be tagged as “The King’s Yacht”, and thus its reconstruction must be similarly worthy of Royal approval.

Photo: Courtesy of Hamo Thornycroft -  

The hull and deck of the Britannia are sound, but the interior needs to be completely refitted, and the engines and generators replaced.

An amount of £2.3M has been budgeted for in the Britannia’s financials for the full reconstruction process to be completed as well as for the various related costs thereto. The Reconstruction Team has already approached a number of companies and patrons to assist in sponsoring this capital amount required, and is confident that the reconstruction work can be completed in budget and on time. Mr Giuseppe Longo has agreed to project manage Britannia’s reconstruction process. He has been at the helm of the internationally acclaimed restoration of the Lulworth, and has won a number of awards for his outstanding work in this field. He will oversee and supervise the entire process from start to finish, and in the process do so in every major and minor detail.

Stefano Faggioni Yacht Design will be the Chief Interior Designer charged to fully restore Britannia’s interior to pristine condition. The interior design of Britannia will be an exact visual replica of the original Britannia. It will have the same look and feel, yet with full modern amenities, thus a wonderful fusion of both the modern and “old world”.

Photo: Courtesy of Hamo Thornycroft -  

The reconstruction process will commence with a full stripping exercise, and then a painstaking process to refit the yacht to her exact requirements and specifications.

The entire reconstruction process will be documented via film and digital media, and from docking in the dry-docks to final unveiling of the restored product will be filmed and stored for eternity. It is envisaged that a webcam will stream live video from the dockyard in order for the progress to be watched and monitored from anywhere in the world.

A time-lapse video of her remake from start to finish will also be edited in order to showcase the enormous yet interesting job at hand, and for viewers to acquaint themselves with history in the making. A picture timeline will be commissioned as well to hang up in the Britannia when the work has been finally concluded.

K1 Britannia  

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