by Kate Holmes
When King George V died in 1936, his will requested that his yacht, the Britannia, be scuttled. So her hull was towed out to St. Catherine’s Deep near the Isle of Wight and sent to rest beneath the waves with a garland of flowers placed on her stem head, thus denying future generations of a heritage. But the story doesn't end there...
The original was scuttled on the death of the King at his request
...because in 1994 the only exact replica of Britannia was commissioned and built in Russia, after gaining Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s blessing. Her then owner shipped her from Russia to Norway but unfortunately the completion of the project came to a standstill.
It was not until late 2011 that Britannia was acquired for the purpose of completing her rebuild in order to revive a maritime heritage and so that she could be used for charitable projects. Britannia was towed from Norway and arrived in the Isle of Wight on 4th February 2012 where she was lifted and dry-docked in her cradle where she sits today at Venture Quays, East Cowes.
She is being rebuilt according to her 1931 specifications when the original Britannia was refitted with a Bermudan rig and converted to the J Class, by a team of individuals called K1 Britannia.
K1 Britannia and Shamrock in Cowes, 1932 - Getty Images
As a floating venue Britannia will be gifted to charities around the world for fundraising and other events that will promote charities or provide direct benefits to the charities.
The reconstruction process will commence with a full stripping of the interior and then a thorough process to refit the yacht to exact requirements and specifications. Britannia will be fully restored to her pristine condition at her new home. Her former namesake was privileged to be tagged as the ‘King’s Yacht’ and her re-construction will be similarly worthy of royal approval.
The hull and deck of the replica yacht Britannia are sound, but the interior needs to be completely refitted, and the engines and generators replaced. The estimated cost for the refitting of these items is projected to be about £1.5 million, and an amount of £2.3 million has been budgeted for the completion of the full reconstruction process. The reconstruction team has already approached a number of companies to assist in sponsoring the capital amount required, and is confident that the reconstruction work can be completed within budget and on time.
K1 example of interior - ladies cabin
The goal is that she will once again be legendary and rekindle memories of a world where nobility and honour were the norm - even though that nobility did not extend to leaving the yacht for future generations.
The original yacht:
The original yacht Britannia was designed by George Lennox Watson was built by Henderson’s on the Clyde in 1893 originally for Queen Victoria’s son Prince Albert Edward of Wales. She served him and his son King George V with a long yachting career.
At the time yachting writers referred to her shape as the Britannia ideal. She was a handsome vessel; Henderson’s built her light and strong, a perfect race yacht. Yachting journalist, James Michael, once wrote; 'so proud over the building of her were the men that the putting of her together was a real labour of love. It was not difficult to imagine that the framework was woven together so beautifully were the many parts joined into and onto each other.'
King George V refitted Britannia for racing in 1920, effectively reviving ‘Big Class’ racing which had been in a lull for some time.
Built of wood and planking on steel frames she had a major refit in 1931 where she was transformed by a Bermudan rig. Made of silver spruce, it was the largest mast ever made as one spar for a yacht, weighing over 3 tonnes.
Despite being the oldest yacht in the circuit, Britannia remained a successful racer with regular updates to her rig. In 1931, she was converted to the J Class with a Bermuda rig and her last race was at Cowes in 1935.
During her racing career which spanned over 40 years, in 635 races she won 231 firsts and of a total of 350 prizes. By the end of her first year racing, Britannia had scored 33 wins from 43 starts. In her second season she won all 7 races for the big class yachts on the French Riviera and then beat 1893 America’s Cup defender Vigilant in home waters.
The story of Britannia can be followed on her new dedicated website www.k1britannia.org