K1 Britannia

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Name: Britannia
Owner: K1 Britannia
Ordered: 1994
Builder: Solombola Shipyard
Acquired: 2011
Status: Refit at Venture Quays Shipyard
General characteristics
Class and type: J Class
Sail plan: Bermudan
Crew: 6 - 8
website: k1britannia.org

K1 Britannia is a replica of His Majesty's Yacht Britannia built in 1893 for Commodore Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. K1 was the Class/Racing number on HMY Britannia '​s main sail.

History and heritage[edit]

King George at the helm, steering the Britannia

The yacht Britannia was built by Henderson's on the Clyde in 1893 for Queen Victoria's son Albert Edward, then Prince of Wales. She served him and his son, King George V, with a long yachting and racing career.

Her Scottish designer George Lennox Watson received a commission from Prince Albert Edward for a sailing yacht in 1892. He designed His Royal Highness' Yacht Britannia to the "Length And Sail Area Rule" as a First Class cutter and had her built alongside his America's Cup challenger Valkyrie II at the D&W Henderson shipyard on the River Clyde. She was launched on April 20, 1893, a week ahead of Valkyrie II.

By the end of her first year's racing, Britannia had scored thirty-three wins from forty-three starts. In her second season, she won all seven races for the big class yachts on the French Riviera, and then beat the 1893 America's Cup defender Vigilant in home waters.

Despite a lull in big yacht racing after 1897, Britannia served as a trial horse for Sir Thomas Lipton's challenger Shamrock I, and later passed on to several owners in a cruising trim with raised bulwarks. In 1920,[1] King George V triggered the revival of the "Big Class" by announcing that he would refit the Britannia for racing. Although the Britannia was the oldest yacht in the circuit, regular updates to her rig kept her a most successful racer throughout the 1920s. In 1931, she was converted to the J-Class with a Bermuda rig. Her last race was at Cowes in 1935. During her racing career she had won 231 races and took another 129 flags.

K1 clearly visible on Britannia '​s main sail

Both designer and builder made a fine job of the Prince's new yacht. It was said of Britannia that 'a better-balanced and better-built vessel never crossed the starting line.' Yachting writers referred to her shape as 'the Britannia ideal'.[2] Yachting journalist James Meikle once wrote: "So proud over the building of her were the men that the putting of her together was a real labour of love." Really it was not difficult to imagine that the framework was woven together, so beautifully were the many parts joined into and onto each other."

Built of wooden planking over steel frames, she had a major refit in 1931 where she was transformed by a Bermuda rig. Made of silver spruce, it was the largest mast ever made as one spar for a yacht, weighing over 3 tons.[3]

King George V's dying wish was for his beloved yacht to follow him to the grave. On 10 July 1936, after the Britannia had been stripped of her spars and fittings, her hull was towed out to St Catherines Deep near the Isle of Wight, and she was sunk by HMS Winchester (L55), commanded by Captain W.N.T. Beckett RN. This fate marked the end of big yacht racing in Europe, with the smaller and more affordable International Rule 12-Metre Class gaining popularity.

K1 sail number[edit]

The new Britannia will use the title K1 to identify that she will be a replica of the original Britannia after she was converted to the J-Class in 1931 when the IYRU attributed the number K1 to the Britannia for sail identification. The letter identifies the flag state (K for a British yachts) and the number identifies yachts on a per-class basis (the Britannia was yacht number 1 in the J-Class.)

1994 rebuild[edit]

In 1994 the only replica of Britannia was commissioned and built in Russia, gaining Her Majesty's blessing. Her then owner, Mr. Sigurd Coates, shipped her from Russia to Norway in 2009. The completion of the project came to a standstill from 2009 until late 2011 when Britannia was acquired by K1 Britannia, a UK company registered for the purpose of completing her rebuild and to be used for charitable projects.[4]

Photos of Britannia hull being built in Solombala yard, Arkhangelsk, Russia, courtesy of K1 Britannia:

Towed and lifted[edit]

Britannia was towed from Son, Norway by the tug Svendborg Bugser A/S and arrived in the Isle of Wight on 4 February 2012.[5] After an unsteady start,[6] which saw the Apache Floating Crane unable to lift the hull at 13 tonnes heavier than expected, a second lifting was attempted on 13 March 2012 where she was placed in her cradle, where she sits today at Venture Quays, East Cowes.[7] The day represented a homecoming for the yacht to the people of the Isle of Wight.[8]

Britannia being towed to Cowes

2011 refit and rebuild[edit]

The reconstruction process has commenced with a full stripping of the interior, and then a thorough process will begin to refit the yacht to her exact requirements and specifications. The Britannia replica will be fully restored to her pristine condition at her new home in East Cowes. Her former namesake was privileged to be tagged as "The King’s Yacht", and her reconstruction will be similarly worthy of Royal approval. She will be rebuilt according to her 1931 specification when the original Britannia was refitted with a Bermuda rig and converted to the J-Class. Upon completion, she will have the largest wooden mast in the world.[9]

Original items[edit]

The original saloon clock will now live on board the Britannia replica

On November 6, 2012, K1 Britannia issued a request online calling upon members of the public to come forward with any items that they might have acquired from His Majesty's Yacht Britannia, should they wish to gift the to the new replica or allow them to live on board while retaining ownership of the items.[10]

In accordance with King George V's wishes, Britannia was stripped of her spars and fittings and towed out to St. Catherine’s Deep in the early hours of July 11, 1936 where she was scuttled by the Royal Navy and sent to rest beneath the waves.

An original cleat which will now live on board the Britannia replica

There was an auction of Britannia’s spars and fittings in Southampton on 24 June 1936, to raise £1050 (worth £58,684.50 when adjusted for inflation) [11] for the King George’s Fund for Sailors, and K1 Britannia is hoping that families may still have items from that auction in their possession.[12]

Many who worked on board the Britannia who were presented with items when they left the yacht, or own pieces taken from her, as she went through several refittings in her lifetime and her interior are still in possession of the items.[13]

K1 Britannia created an online form (which may be found here) where interested parties could get in touch and submit information about pieces and items from Britannia that they would like to donate to the project.

Reconstruction team[edit]

The management and reconstruction team is made up of experienced Yacht Restorers, Naval Architects and Interior Designers.

  • Giuseppe Longo, Project Manager who was responsible for the restoration of the Lulworth Yacht, which won a number of international accolades and was nominated as the “Restoration of the Century”. His impressive track record stands with him in good stead to do even more excellent work on the Britannia, as he will be responsible for the full project management process of fully restoring the Britannia to pristine condition.
  • Stefano Faggioni, Chief Architect & Interior Designer. Stefano Faggioni, is the owner of Studio Faggioni Yacht Design. His father, Ugo Faggioni, a naval architect well known in the sector for over 40 years, handed down his experience to his son, who with the family and other assistants, carries through numerous projects for new constructions, interior design and the restoration of classic boats.[14]

Charitable trust[edit]

The Britannia Trust is being considered for registration as a discretionary, charitable trust in which the Britannia and her business affairs could be housed. The Britannia Trust will be domiciled in the United Kingdom as an English Trust.

A competent Board of Trustees will manage, direct and oversee the operations, governance, finance, legal and audit processes of the Britannia Trust in accordance with globally accepted corporate governance rules and regulations within the non profit sectors of the market. The Board of Trustees will consist of at least 3-5 Trustees that each has significant depth of international business experience, as well as philanthropic and charity works, and whose credibility is beyond reproach.[14]

The Britannia Trust will be governed within the parameters of globally accepted corporate governance rules and regulations. As the Trust will be UK domiciled, it will be subject to English law, corporate and trust governance, and will submit regulatory and compliance documentation and financial statements as required under English law on an annual basis. The ethos of the Britannia Trust is to apply total transparency to all aspects of the Trust and to maintain the highest standards of integrity expected of a charitable organization.[14]

Charitable use[edit]

Following completion of the rebuild, Britannia is purposed to be used as a flagship for charity geared for retired war veterans, emergency services personnel, challenged youth and maritime education. Britannia will also be used for corporate sponsorships and given as a gift to 50-60 charities a year as a floating venue to help raise funds for charities internationally.[14]

Due to the nature of Britannia '​s charitable use, many have come on board to be a part of the history or her rebuild, contributing time, skill, labour, craftsmanship, hardware, supplies, and finances. The goal of the restoration team is to make her a flagship for charity and to restore the Britannia legacy and heritage.[14]

Charitable works[edit]

The Britannia Trust’s charity purpose is to bring to life legendary yachts and use them for charity, whether full-time or part time. Starting with the charity's flagship, Britannia, which will be used up to 6 months a year by the charity, then throughout the remainder of the year other classic yachts of all sizes will be used by the charity exclusively for projects geared towards maritime education, war veterans, emergency service personnel, and challenged youth.

These yachts must be legendary and bring a remembrance of a world where nobility and honor were the norm. The goal of the charity is to transform lives using the history of the yachts and the men and women who sailed them. Their stories will give those that are involved with their legacies the courage to follow in their footsteps, fighting against all odds to achieve their dreams.[14]


Britannia Bering Towed to East Cowes, Isle of Wight

Other Britannia Photos:


  1. ^ "King George to race his Britannia again" (PDF). New York Times. 1920-03-10. 
  2. ^ The Yachtsman 1993, Issue 4. "She was a handsome vessel! Henderson's built her light and strong, a perfect race yacht."
  3. ^ http://www.britishpathe.com/video/the-largest-mast-ever-made
  4. ^ http://www.superyachtnews.com/fleet/17276/royal_yacht_begins_long_awaited_rebuild.html
  5. ^ http://cowes.co.uk/Britannia-arrives-back-into-Cowes.aspx
  6. ^ http://www.classicboat.co.uk/news/britannia-replica-goes-back-in-the-water/
  7. ^ http://www.superyachttimes.com/editorial/37/article/id/7922
  8. ^ http://www.superyachtnews.com/events/17424/kings_yacht_lifted_into_place.html
  9. ^ http://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/46556
  10. ^ http://k1britannia.org/do-you-have-an-original-britannia-item/
  11. ^ http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-1633409/Historic-inflation-calculator-value-money-changed-1900.html
  12. ^ http://k1britannia.org/do-you-have-an-original-britannia-item/
  13. ^ http://k1britannia.org/do-you-have-an-original-britannia-item/
  14. ^ a b c d e f http://britanniatrust.org, the official website of the Britannia charitable trust.

External links[edit]