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Saturday, November 22, 1997 Published at 23:55 GMT


Royal Yacht completes final swansong
image: [ A warm welcome for Britannia - but what does the future hold? ]
A warm welcome for Britannia - but what does the future hold?

The Royal Yacht Britannia has sailed into her home port of Portsmouth to a hero's welcome.

Thousands of people lined the harbour walls to catch a glimpse of the vessel at the end of a four-week farewell tour of the United Kingdom.

[ image: Emerging through a symbolic wreath of cascading water]
Emerging through a symbolic wreath of cascading water
A flotilla of small boats surrounded the yacht and she was welcomed home with traditional cascade of water from harbour tugs.

Britannia, which has notched up more than one million miles during her career as the nation's floating ambassador, is due to be decommissioned in a special ceremony in Portsmouth next month.

[ image: Thousands lined harbour walls]
Thousands lined harbour walls
The government has already said there will be no replacement for the Royal Yacht, but her fate has yet to be decided.

The Ministry of Defence is considering various options for her future role, including a floating conference centre, museum, or hotel.

Minutes before she passed the harbour entrance there was fly-past by a plane from the Queen's Flight, a Sea Harrier, a Sea King helicopter and a Lynx helicopter.

[ image: A floating ambassador]
A floating ambassador
Many of those on the quayside felt the yacht should stay in Portsmouth.

The yacht will berth in the naval base in Portsmouth to await her decommissioning in December and whatever fate then awaits her.

The jetty will open to the public so people can get a closer view of the yacht.

Seven schemes for the future of the yacht have been submitted to the Ministry of Defence and the council and the Flagship Portsmouth Trust wants the yacht to be an international tourist and conference facility with luxury overnight accommodation.

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