The K1 Britannia Trust has outlined plans for a modern replica of 1893 sailing yacht Britannia, the iconic racing vessel commissioned by Albert Edward – Queen Victoria’s son, who later become King Edward VII.
The original royal yacht, which enjoyed an illustrious racing career over 43 years with 231 victories in total, was designed by GL Watson. A cutter stretching to 37 metres (121 feet), Britannia boasted a one-in-three win rate and mixed elegance, luxury and high performance into one sleek build.
The turn-of-the-century yacht is unrelated to Queen Elizabeth II’s royal yacht, also named Britannia, which is now open to visitors as a museum in Edinburgh, Scotland.
In 1910 the original Britannia was handed over to King George V, who remained her owner until his death in 1936. As per the late King’s wishes, the yacht was scuttled off the coast of the Isle of Wight in St. Catherine’s Deep.
During her 40-plus-year lifespan, Britannia was modified and augmented a number of times; in 1931, at the beginning of the J Class era of yacht racing, she was converted into a sloop and given the K1 flag number – she also had the tallest wooden mast on the planet at the time.
Over the years a number of attempts have been made to replicate the landmark racing yacht, most notably in 1993 by Norway-born Sigurd Coates. Coates’ project aimed to recreate Britannia entirely from wood – after a decade of hard work, and the hull and interiors finished, the project was dragged into a legal battle in Russia. After being held for five years, she was released and the K1 Britannia Trust purchased the project as a flagship for charity and it was relocated to Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
Following lengthy discussions on its future, the trust decided to start again with a new modus operandi.
“During her 43-year history Britannia was regularly modified to ensure she stayed the fastest and most competitive possible boat of her type,” said Scott Ward, a K1 Britannia trustee. “While many think of her as an historical piece – and she certainly embodies the heritage of the racing days prior to the Second World War – Britannia was actually the F1 racing boat of her day.
“We have become convinced that if she had been built today for the same innovative owners and by the same visionary designer, they would have insisted on staying true to her competitive racing pedigree and leveraging the latest technology. This is why we will retain the unrivalled hull lines of the original yacht and then build a replica that truly captures the spirit and performance of Britannia in every way.”
Fellow trustee Priya Thirumur added, “The Trust’s vision for K1 Britannia is to bring back to life this extraordinary vessel as a truly enduring racing machine and a force for good. As one of the most instantly recognisable classic yachts of all time, the future Britannia will be distinctively equipped for a new era of yachting while also serving as an international flagship for youth initiatives and maritime causes the world over.”
Construction on the new, modern replica – dubbed K1 Britannia – will begin in 2019. It’s hoped that she will be ready for unveiling at the next America’s Cup finals, which take place in New Zealand in 2021.