New J Class Britannia?
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.