Royal Yacht Britannia Update

Royal Yacht Britannia

Royal Yacht Britannia Update

It’s been 82 years since the 37-metre Royal Yacht Britannia was scuttled in the waters off the Isle of Wight in 1936 at the dying wish of King George V.

The name Britannia has always been synonymous with these vintage years of racing. 

When the Prince of Wales’ nephew Kaiser Wilhelm II acquired the racing cutter Thistle in 1891, her Scottish designer George Lennox Watson received a commission from Queen Victoria’s son, Albert Edward, then Prince of Wales, for a sailing yacht in 1892.

Watson designed 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 Yard on the River Clyde. She was launched on April 20, 1893, a week ahead of Valkyrie II.

Prince Albert Edward’s son, King George V, regularly took the helm in person and kick-started the revival of the Big Class in the UK in 1920 when he announced a new series of races.

These regattas were a precursor to the start of the J-class in 1929 and Britannia herself was converted into a J two years later with the sail number K1. 

In her illustrious 40-year career spanning between 1893 and 1936, Britannia left all other sailing yachts in her wake winning an astonishing 231 of the 635 races in which she took part, and was among the prize winners in a further 121.

While many of the giant yachts against which she competed continue to live in the collective memory of the sailing community – especially over recent years with the revival of the J-class

Now the K1 Britannia Trust, a charitable flagship for maritime causes, is working on the re-creation of a replica of that famous, historical, classic sailing yacht.

It is an inspiring revival and unique undertaking in today’s world of classic sailing yachts.

The idea of building the replica came about when the Norwegian entrepreneur Sigurd Coates was one of many people inspired by grainy, fascinating black and white film footage of the royal yacht in action during the pre-war era.

In 1993 he decided to follow a long-cherished dream and start construction of a replica

Unable to finish the rebuild due to the global recession, he sold the hull to the K1 Britannia Trust, registered in the UK who are ensuring that work on the replica continues at a vigorous pace as an international force in aiding troubled youth, charitable causes.

The Trust was established by a group of like-minded individuals with a background in aid projects and a shared love of and respect for the maritime world. While the rebuild of Britannia the yacht is still in the preliminary stage, the non-profit’s work in Britannia’s honour has been sailing ahead on multiple fronts.

The goal behind purchasing the Britannia replica in 2012 was to embrace the noble spirit of this extraordinary vessel as a force for good.

The trust hopes that as one of the most instantly recognisable classic yachts of all time, the future Britannia will become uniquely qualified to serve as an international flagship for maritime-related causes the world over. 

While the rebuild of Britannia is still in the preliminary stage, the non-profit’s work in the yacht’s honour has been sailing ahead on multiple fronts.

Notable Efforts

A few of K1 Britannia’s recent notable efforts to date include:

  • Disaster Relief & Support — K1 provided immediate, mid and long-term disaster relief to the inhabitants of St. Maarten and Dominica in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year. After Irma devastated St. Maarten in September 2017, the K1 Britannia Foundation became the main reliable source of volunteers for relief initiatives. Over a period of 11 months the foundation led volunteer efforts in the areas of first response and rapid assessment of places offering refuge and care, in addition to establishing and managing shelters and distributing relief goods. 
  • K1 Britannia has also expanded its focus in the Caribbean region by setting up a more permanent Disaster Relief & Crisis Team (K1 DIRECT) in collaboration with  notable partners.
  • Maritime Youth Programs — The Maritime Skills Training Programme, operated by the K1 Britannia Trust in the UK in partnership with IBTC Portsmouth, IBTC
  • Lowestoft and Combat Stress, offers vulnerable youth and ex-service personnel who are struggling with mental health issues the opportunity to take a 47-week accredited boatbuilding course to develop the skills needed for gainful employment in the maritime industry. In St. Maarten, K1 Britannia Foundation has launched the maritime-based Second Chance program, helping to rehabilitate troubled youth and children who have been victims of abuse. 
  • Maritime Training Programs — K1 has also launched maritime training programs, sponsored by Holland America Line and conducted by Kidz at Sea, providing certified training in boat repair and boat building. 

The widespread recognition for the activities by K1 Britannia earned, among other things, a nomination for the ‘Appeltjes van Oranje’ award in 2016, presented annually by the Dutch royal family to honor initiatives which connect different groups of people and foster a more liveable society within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.