The story of the new Britannia

Britannia replica returns to Cowes - Photo by Hamo Thornycroft

Britannia replica returns to Cowes - Photo by Hamo Thornycroft Britannia replica returns to Cowes - Photo by Hamo Thornycroft

Britannia replica returns to Cowes – photos courtesy of Hamo Thornycroft 

My thanks to Jana of the Britannia Trust for sending over these photos, and information about the building of the new Britannia.

On King George V’s death in January 1936, the old king left instructions that his famous J class racing yacht named Britannia was to ‘follow him to the grave’.

Stripped of all her spars and fittings, the elegant old racing machine was towed out from Cowes and sunk off St Catherine’s Deep, somewhere west of Ventnor and south of the Needles, on July 1st. The remains of her hull are there to-day, rotting in a deep watery grave. Nobody is supposed to know the exact location (but see Adrian Morgan’s comment below), though fishermen from the island report having  snagged nets on her.

An exact replica of her hull was built, between 1993 and 2009 at a shipyard in the Russian port of Arkhangelsk, inside the Arctic Circle, and financed by a Norwegian magnate. Since then she has overwintered in northern Norway, until in January she was brought west and south to Cowes, and arrived on the 4th February.

The yacht has been purchased by Minicast Holdings of Gibraltar; on completion of her fitting out, the company will donate the use of her to the Britannia Trust for a minimum of 10 years.

The Britannia Trust’s plan is to complete the building work at Cowes, including fitting new deck hardware, installing a new interior, and fitting a mast, rigging and sails, engines and generators. The aim is to create a flagship for charities aiding underprivileged children and war veterans, and to use her as a fundraising venue for charities.

The trust believes the new Britannia is ideally suited for charitable work, as it has the potential to attract thousands of people every year.

The reconstruction team is now seeking sponsors for the project, which is to be project-managed by Giuseppe Longo, who was responsible for managing the restoration of the Lulworth. Stefano Faggioni is to act as chief interior designer, with the aim of making the interior of the new Britannia look as much like the original as possible, but with  modern amenities.

The reconstruction process will be documented and filmed, and during the works a live webcam will stream continuous images from the dockyard.

One thought on “The story of the new Britannia”

  1. Some years ago, while researching Britannia, I came across the logbook of the destroyer Winchester that accompanied her to her scuttling. It reads ‘0245 slipped and sank Britannia in position Lat 50 34 18 N, Long 1 11 0 W.’

    No secret then, but I suspect she’s moved since then with the tides. A bow fitting was dredged up some years back.

    I also interviewed the man who blew her up, torpedoman Cyril Bodsworth. He nearly didn’t make it off her deck before she sank. Poignantly he told me of her last moments: “Britannia settled slowly at first but as the water rose inside her beautiful mahogany panelled saloon, she began to slip fast, by the stern. A few minutes later those watching from the decks of her escorts heard a ‘gentle pop’ and, like Excalibur, a piece of polished deck planking shot up from St Catherine’s Deep and, according to Bodsworth ‘carving a gentle parabola’ splashed into the water away to starboard in the half light. “

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