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Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 15:32 GMT
Cornwall welcomes Bluebottle yacht
Dragon-class yachts
The Dragon-class yacht raced in the 1956 Olympics
A wedding present given to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh is being restored in Cornwall before it goes on permanent display in the county.

Bluebottle, a Dragon-class yacht, will become a floating exhibit at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall (NMMC), which is due to open in Falmouth next summer.

The vessel is on permanent loan to the museum after it was donated by HRH Prince Philip when he laid the foundation stone of the NMMC in July 1999.

Since the decommissioning of the Royal Yacht Britannia, Bluebottle is regarded by some as the last remaining Royal Yacht.

Royal wedding
The yacht was a royal wedding present
Bluebottle was presented to the Queen and Prince Philip from the members of the Island Sailing club at Cowes on the Isle of Wight in honour of their wedding in 1947.

First launched in 1948, the vessel has been used extensively for racing.

She was selected to represent the UK at the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956, where her crew won a bronze medal.

The yacht was also used for training at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, where it was on loan for almost 40 years.

A spokesman at the college said: "It was used to give cadets experience of sailing keel boats."

However, when cadets were told the name of Bluebottle's owner, there was often a sense of trepidation which stopped some from using it.

Major refit

The spokesman said: "It did bring a lot of prestige for the college because it was known as the 'Royal Yacht' around Dartmouth and would take part in the town's famous regattas."

The current refit is being carried out by shipbuilder Maurice Hunkin in Fowey, whose father carried out the last major refit in 1956.

He said: "Over the years some of the frame or steamed timbers have become cracked in places. You get that with wooden timbers.

"We also were finding that a few more needed work than was first anticipated. But they are going to have to be done because they are the main structure in the boat."

'Marvellous prestige'

But Mr Hunkin said he is proud of the work that he is carrying out.

He said: "It's marvellous prestige for us. We were one of three firms who tendered for this job. It is quite an honour to have been given it."

He also said that the museum where the yacht will be displayed is something the county has waited for.

"It's something that Cornwall has wanted for a long time, because Cornwall is a sea-faring county."

Staff at the NMMC said the boat must be made watertight because the vessel will play an important "on the water" role at Falmouth when it goes on display.

See also:

19 Aug 98 | UK
New life for Britannia
19 Aug 98 | Royal Yacht Britannia
Britannia decommissioned
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