Wednesday, 8 Feb 2023

Inside £250m super yacht designed for King Charles

Royal yacht provides ‘a soft-power prestige’ says Raab in 2021

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London-based firm Vitruvius Yachts unveiled the design they created for a national flagship vessel set to replace the beloved but long-decommissioned Royal Yacht Britannia. The proposal, which had remained tightly under wraps for months, had granted the firm a place among the finalists in the design competition previously launched by the UK Government. Spearheaded by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, the competition saw companies submitting their concept for a new £250million national flagship vessel.

While the company’s design of its 125-metre regal yacht was a hit, the launch of a new national vessel was reportedly shelved in October last year by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt as part of his package of spending cuts.

Vitruvius Yachts’ design remains nevertheless fit for a King, and seems to have been particularly attentive to a monarch focused on the fight against climate change, as shown by its newly-released concepts.

Listing some of the key features of its concept yacht, the firm spoke of a focus on sustainable power and propulsion.

Vitruvius said the concept’s highly efficient hull design minimises fuel consumption and boosts opportunities for emerging green technologies to create a zero-carbon vessel.

The concept vessel also features an energy-agnostic propulsion system based on efficient pod drives, which can also enable geostationary position-keeping without damaging sensitive seabeds with an anchor.

Given his decades-long campaigning on sustainability and the protection of the environment, similar features would have surely delighted King Charles.

The themes of sustainability and minimised waste are translated also inside the yacht, as its interior is based on recycled and recyclable materials.

The concept yacht’s flexible deck and interior design have been thought to make the vessel easily adaptable to every occasion, making it a perfect location for an exhibition showcase as well as for a floating embassy.

The concept also drew on several cultural and societal cues, “from innovation and sustainability to accessibility and inclusion, to represent the very best of British in design, manufacturing, craftsmanship and diversity”, as stated by the team creating the design.

The exterior of this concept design gives a nod at the innate Britishness of the national flagship vessel, as its sleek white, blue and red profile includes a LED-lit style line hinting at the ribbon pattern in the Union Jack.

The new design was created by Team FestivAI, a collaboration between Vitruvius Yachts, world-renowned architecture practice Zaha Hadid Architects and aluminium ship and yacht specialists Ocea.

Vitrivius Yachts’ Philippe Briand – a leading yacht designer and naval architect – spearheaded the team.

Speaking of the concept, Vitrivius Yachts said: “Indeed, in developing the design, the essence of Britishness takes centre stage through a Union flag ribbon motif in the side and plan view elevations, while reflecting the multicultural society that defines the UK today.”

Philippe Briand also commented: “To design a vessel – a flagship – that will become a benchmark in sustainability as well as demonstrating British excellence and heritage for current and future generations, while also being a symbol of inclusion and diversity, was an enormous challenge that kept me awake at night.

“The nature and intensity of the project kept me focused but also filled me with pride, not just in the design process itself but for what the flagship stands for.”

He added: “The flagship collaboration was an incredible opportunity to act as an architect realising the design of a project that was hugely complex, because it aims to represent not the tastes of one person but the essence of an entire nation.

“That is actually way more difficult than designing for even the most demanding individual.”

Former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss championed the creation of a new national flagship vessel, which was to be paid for by the Ministry of Defence, as announced in June 2021.

However, their enthusiasm was dampened by a number of MPs speaking against the allocation of millions to this project.

The Royal Family also signalled they did not want a new royal yacht, with a source telling The Times in May 2021: “It is not something we have asked for”.

The Palace also sank the Government’s plan to name the new Britannia after Prince Philip.

Members of the British public also seemed to be overwhelmingly against the project, with a YouGov poll carried out between April 13 and 14 2021 suggesting 47 percent of the 1689 British adults surveyed were against replacing the Britannia.

The Royal Yacht Britannia was officially launched by the late Queen in 1953, just weeks before her Coronation.

After being used by Firm members for official trips, receptions, state visits, honeymoons and private holidays, it was decommissioned in 1997.

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