New J Class Bri­tan­nia?

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The modern J Class fleet may swell to ten-strong if the K1 Bri­tan­nia Trust’s bold new plans to build a new Bri­tan­nia go ahead. It has an­nounced its in­ten­tion to build a new J Class-rated replica of one of the most fa­mous and suc­cess­ful clas­sic rac­ing yachts.

The orig­i­nal 121ft Bri­tan­nia won hun­dreds of races against the Big Class of cut­ters and Js dur­ing a four-decade ca­reer that ended with the death of King Ge­orge V, in 1936.

The new replica K1 Bri­tan­nia will be based on G. L. Wat­son’s orig­i­nal hull lines with mod­i­fi­ca­tions to con­form to J Class rules. The Prince of Wales, Al­bert Ed­ward (later King Ed­ward VII), orig­i­nally com­mis­sioned Wat­son to de­sign Bri­tan­nia as a cut­ter, and she was built in just four months by Hen­der­son’s on the Clyde in 1893. She achieved in­stant rac­ing suc­cess and was cam­paigned again be­tween the wars by Ed­ward VII’S son, King Ge­orge V.

He had the rac­ing thor­ough­bred re­fit­ted and rerigged in 1931, giv­ing her a Ber­mu­dan rig and the tallest wooden mast ever. Bri­tan­nia was given the sail num­ber K1 and spent her last five years rac­ing as a J Class yacht. The King’s dying wish was for Bri­tan­nia to fol­low him to the grave and she was scut­tled off the Isle of Wight in 1936.

In 1993, Nor­we­gian Sig­urd Coates be­gan to build an ex­act replica of Bri­tan­nia in wood in Ar­changel, Rus­sia. How­ever, the project be­came the sub­ject of a lengthy le­gal dis­pute be­fore be­ing ex­tracted, un­fin­ished, to Nor­way.

In 2012 we re­ported that the Bri­tan­nia

Trust had ac­quired the un­com­pleted replica and planned to fit it out for rac­ing and char­ity pur­poses. The hull was towed back to Bri­tan­nia’s orig­i­nal home, Cowes, for fitout and was hauled out at the South Boats yard. How­ever, all work was stopped when the yard went into liq­ui­da­tion in late 2012 and Bri­tan­nia was re­floated.

While de­cid­ing on the next steps for the hull, the Trust team fo­cused on the de­vel­op­ment of Bri­tan­nia-in­spired char­i­ta­ble projects. We spoke to Bri­tan­nia Trust trus­tee Scott Ward and he told us that while the ex­ist­ing replica hull may well still be given a lease of life as a mu­seum piece, the fo­cus now is on this new J Class build.

“Dur­ing her 43-year rac­ing his­tory Bri­tan­nia was reg­u­larly mod­i­fied to en­sure she stayed the fastest and most com­pet­i­tive pos­si­ble boat of her type,” Ward ex­plains. “We’ve 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 lever­age the lat­est tech­nol­ogy.” There­fore key as­pects of the re­build strat­egy in­clude an all-alu­minium hull and keel, a car­bon rig and green tech­nolo­gies.

The Trust’s goal is to start con­struc­tion in early 2019 and un­veil the cel­e­brated yacht in all her new­found glory at the Amer­ica’s Cup in New Zealand in 2021.

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