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Friday, November 14, 1997 Published at 06:55 GMT


British shipbuilders miss the boat

Russians say the project has saved their shipyard

Britain's Royal Yacht Britannia has completes its final voyage. After much political wrangling, the British Government has decided not to replace the vessel which has carried the country's royalty around the world for decades.

But for those who value the tradition, all is not lost. A shipyard in the Russian arctic is busy building a replica of the original Britannia.

It is being recreated at the northern Russian port of Arkhangelsk and funded by a Norwegian consortium.

[ image: George V aboard his beloved yacht]
George V aboard his beloved yacht
The Britannia racing cutter was built in 1893 for the then Prince of Wales. Later it was sailed to countless victories by King George V. When the King died, his beloved yacht was towed out to sea and scuttled.

Now Russian craftsmen are building a pine replica of the original racing yacht, seen as the most beautiful and successful ever launched.

It is costing £2 million to recreate, half as much as it would have cost in Britain. But the director of the shipyard said Russian craftsmen have the skills needed to produce the replica.

"I think the difference is so little that even special professional yachtsmen and boat builders cannot see this difference. Because it is only some millimeters," said Yevgeny Vatletsov.

[ image: The original cutter won several races]
The original cutter won several races
The workers say the project helped save their shipyard from collapse. "This yacht will touch the soul of everyone who sees her, whether English, Norwegian or Russian," said one of the boat-builders, Vladimir Konovalov.

As one small concession to Britannia's homeland, the Norwegians bought a British-made wood-burning stove to protect the ship from the bitter winter cold.

The craftsmen said they expect to complete the replica in early 1999. Then the yacht will be launched on its maiden voyage to Britain.

The owners hope that, one day, the Prince of Wales will agree to sail it and put the royal seal of approval on the new Russian-built Britannia.

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