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Britannia

Vessel Number: HV000003
Date: 1919
Dimensions:
Vessel Dimensions: 5.49 m x 10.65 m x 5.49 m x 2.58 m x 1.97 m, 71.8 square metres (18 ft x 35 ft x 18 ft x 8.45 ft. x 6.5 ft., 772.93 square feet)
Classification:Vessels and fittings
Significance
BRITANNIA is an 18-foot skiff from 1919. The boat, and its skipper, builder and designer 'Wee Georgie' Robinson were both very prominent in the class between the two world wars and won many races. It was one of the most important craft in the 18-foot skiff class between 1919 and 1945, and is closely connected to many of the events during that period. 'Wee Georgie' Robinson was one the legendary characters in the 18-foot skiff class. The vessel is a rare example of the design, construction and layout of an early 18-foot skiff.
DescriptionBRITANNIA is gaff rigged with a small topsail, and exemplifies the enormous spread of sail carried by the 18-foot skiff class, very few of which remain extant. The hull is only 18 feet (5.49 m) long, but with its full rig set the craft is almost 70 feet (over 20 m) long. It is seam batten built in red cedar, with hard wood frames and other structure. it has three thwarts, a tabernackle for the mast, a foredeck, sidedecks and centrecase.

BRITANNIA raced on Sydney Harbour from 1919 through until the late 1940s. In that time it won numerous races and championships and became one of the few 18s to race for over two decades. It underwent gradual rig changes, increasing the amount of sail it could carry, and it is thought to have carried the most mainsail and headsail area of any 18 foot skiff during the late 1930s.

Wee Georgie Robinson was one of the most wel=known and respected skippers. He raced and sailed hard regardless of the conditions, and knew the Harbour well. His Balmain crew wore the striped black and gold Balmain rugby league jerseys, and some of them played for the club as well over winter.

After World War II the hull was converted into a motor launch by Robinson and used as a starter's boat by the Sydney Flying Squadron for many seasons. It had a small petrol motor and a mast for starting flags and signals.

As it neared the end of its use it was left in Robinson's boatshed at Balmain. It was taken from there and restored by the Australian National Maritime Museum in the late 1980s. The original side decks, thwarts and foredeck were still in place, only the cabin and engine mounts needed to be removed. Plans were drawn of the biggest rig it may have carried based on quoted measuerments, and where required new parts were made to replicate as best possible what would have been there at the time. Missing timber and other damage was replaced as well.

BRITANNIA is on display, fully rigged, in the Watermarks Gallery at the Museum in Darling Harbour. A considerable amount of original structure remains despite its age, and it can be veiwed from different angles as it is supported in the air by wires.

An exact replica of BRITANNIA was built by Ian Smith in Sydney in 2001. It was constructed faithfully using traditional methods and materials that were recorded in the documentation and conservation plans of the original craft. These plans were prepared during the museum's restoration project. The replica BRITANNIA now sails regularly with a growing fleet of new 'historic' skiffs based in Sydney and Brisbane.

Vessel Details
Current status:inside building
Current status:non-floating
Current status:non-operational
Current status:on public display
Deck layout:open/foredeck
Deck material and construction:timber planked
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:tiller
Hull material and construction:batten seam
Hull material and construction:timber
Hull shape:displacement
Hull shape:monohull
Hull shape:plumb stemvertical stem
Hull shape:plumb transomvertical transom
Hull shape:round bottom
Keel/centreboard/rudder type:dagger boarddrop board
Keel/centreboard/rudder type:transom rudder
Related materials:film
Related materials:interviews
Related materials:models
Related materials:news clippings
Related materials:photos
Related materials:plans
Related materials:references
Rig type:gaff
Rig type:sloop
Sail cloth:cotton
Spar material:timber

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