HMS VICTORY TRAFALGAR SAIL
This large but fragile artefact from lord nelson’s iconic ship and battle is now on display in portsmouth
Although it has not been seen for six years, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is displaying the ‘Trafalgar Sail’ for a limited period. Measuring 24 metres (79 feet) at the foot, 16 metres (52 feet) at the head and covering an area of 1,102 metres (3,615 feet), this iconic sail is the only surviving fore-topsail from HMS Victory and was used at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Such is the sail’s size that it covers the equivalent of two tennis courts when it is fully laid out and is pockmarked with 90 shot holes. It has had a chequered display history over the last 200 years and is in a very delicate condition. Now temporarily displayed at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, the sail is laid flat and accompanied by a short audio and lighting presentation featuring footage from the Oscar-winning film Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World.
Matthew Sheldon, director of heritage at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, says, “HMS Victory, Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar are key to our history. The sail is an amazing object, scarred by battle and, like HMS Victory herself, a proud survivor of an iconic battle. But it is also a vast, handmade object from Georgian times that required great knowledge and skill to create it. Seeing it is a real treat.” Commissioned in 1778, HMS Victory is still on active service as the oldest commissioned warship in the world. It is preserved in a dry dock at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Senior conservator Diana Mccormack makes final checks on the Trafalgar Sail before it goes on display
The Trafalgar Sail is accompanied by audio and visual footage from ‘Master And Commander’. Actor Russell Crowe visited HMS Victory as part of his research for the film, set during the Napoleonic Wars