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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|
With over 2000 hulls built, Nathanael Greene Herreshoff’s 1914 design for a “Buzzards Bay Boys Boat” – the Herreshoff 12 ½ – has been in production for 113 years and is likely the most popular small yacht ever. Versions include a fiberglass redesign – the Bullseye, from Cape Cod Shipbuilding; exact fiberglass replicas like William Harding’s Doughdish, and Joel White’s Haven 12 ½ – a centerboard design built to sail shallower water. Uncounted copies from custom wooden boat builders also testify to its appeal.
With a 12 ½ foot waterline, the H 12 ½ is16 feet long. Proposed as a children’s training boat, it handled the choppy seas and brisk breezes of Massachusetts’ Buzzards Bay with an easy motion and a comforting sense of security. The design is informed by Captain Nat’s critical, innovative eye and long experience building trophy winning sailing yachts. By 1914 he was in his mid-sixties and drawing some of his best-loved designs – the Buzzards Bay 25s, Newport 29s and his own Alerion. Instead of rule-stretching high speed sleds his pen now drew human sized, sweet-sailing and uncomplicated boats that spoke of his deep appreciation for the arts of sailing and naval design.
Herreshoff gave the H 12 ½ a short ballast keel for stability and a deep, spacious cockpit to carry multiple kids and/or adults. Sold initially with a gaff and later with a Marconi rig, the sail area is small enough to be handily managed by a boy or girl – steel biceps not required. In experienced hands, however, the rig is big enough to slip along with a bit of a bone in her teeth. Adults have been known to downsize from trophy yacht to H 12 ½ just to relish casual sunset sailing into their golden years. It’s ironic that no one alive sailed on Captain Nat’s masterpiece, Reliance – a brilliantly engineered, extreme racer – but thousands have memories of sailing his “children’s” boat.
Particularly popular in Southern New England, H 12 ½ s are found all along North America’s Atlantic coast. In some families they’re handed down through generations, and rarely is one in need of repair not rescued and relaunched. Surprisingly, they have also traveled quite far afield: they sail in Norway, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and many countries far from Bristol, RI. The H 12 ½ truly has a hull shape and history for the ages.