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His Majesty’s Yacht Britannia was a gaff-rigged cutter built in 1893 for Commodore Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. It served him and his son, King George V, a long racing career.
After 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 Edward VII for a sailing yacht in 1892. He designed His Royal Highness’ Yacht 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 20th, 1893, a week ahead of Valkyrie II.
By the end of her first year’s racing, the Britannia had scored thirty-three wins from forty-three starts. In her second season, she won all seven races for the big class yachts on the French Riviera, and then beat the 1893 America’s Cup defender Vigilant in home waters.
King George V’s dying wish was for his beloved yacht to follow him to the grave. On 10 July 1936, after the Britannia had been stripped of her spars and fittings, her hull was towed out to St Catherine Deep near the Isle of Wight, and she was sunk by HMS Winchester.
|Size||76 cm L x 95 cm Hgh|
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William Starling Burgess no doubt inherited his love of boats and sailing from his father as well as his sharp analytical mind. He also acquired his precise and sensitive feeling for lines and forms from Nathanael Herreshoff, his “Uncle Nat”. But when the young Starling informed Herreshoff of his intention to become a naval architect, “the Wizard of Bristol” took umbrage.
When Mike Vanderbilt contacted him to build a new defender for the 1934 challenge, time was very short. No matter ! He started on the rough drafts of the plans at end of 1931 and Rainbow very nearly failed in the face of a faster challenger, Endeavour.
Starling Burgess came out of it quite well, Charles Nicholson even offering him the plans of his champion. His gesture was to prove quite unwise.