In 1997 a dramatic turn saw the decommissioning of HMY Britannia, and in recent years, politicians have pondered the merit of bringing a royal yacht back into service. To help make any political decisions simpler, Vitruvius Yachts has envisaged a concept that could fill the massive void left by what is affectionately regarded as a piece of British maritime history.
The Royal Yacht Britannia was an institution as famous as the Royal Palaces; built in 1953, it served as the Royal Family’s floating embassy. They took holidays aboard it, did world tours and entertained Presidents, Prime Ministers and all types of World Leaders. Queen Elizabeth II always loved boarding her special Yacht and cherished her time sailing the Oceans. Sadly due to escalating running costs, the RY Britannia was decommissioned in 1997.
Since the RY Britannia stopped sailing, there have been discussions about replacing the grand lady with a modern vessel to fulfil the same roles. The Government invited designs to build what they named the National Flagship rather than a Royal Yacht. Various Yacht designers started projects to design the new vessel, and Vitruvius Yachts was one of these.
The National Flagship concept by Vitruvius Yachts was completed, but the Government decided to scrap the commissioning of a new craft during the process. The design created, Vitruvius chose to show what would have been a vessel for the people but fit for a king.
Vitruvius Yachts and its collaborative team, Team FestivAl, combined their considerable experience and knowledge to create something extraordinary, a 21st Century Super Yacht to celebrate British technology and society that could take on several roles and ultimately be a home afloat for the nation’s new king.
The team were shortlisted in the competition to win the contract to build a National Flagship, but the gangplank has been pulled away by the project’s halting. Eager to show what their skilled people can do, Vitruvius Yachts wants the world to see what was confidential.
Team FestivAl comprises the aluminium ship and yacht specialists Ocea, world-renowned architecture practice Zaha Hadid Architects, and London-based, award-winning yacht design studio Vitruvius Yachts. They wanted to build a vessel with key features focusing on sustainability with low environmental impact. Power and propulsion had to be as green as possible, and a highly efficient hull design to minimise fuel consumption.
Vitruvius wanted to use emerging green technologies to create a zero-carbon vessel with interiors based on recycled and recyclable materials. The decks must be versatile and flexible, and interiors that can switch between exhibition showcase or floating embassy.
Philippe Briand of Vitruvius Yachts said, “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.”
Briand based the design of the National Flagship on a clever superstructure and sound naval architecture to create a vessel of 125 metres. It is highly efficient in the water, with 30% less hydrodynamic drag than a steel ship, and through the air, it has a drag coefficient of just 0.28, less than most cars.
The ‘Al’ in ‘Team FestivAl stands for aluminium because the vessel would have been built from recycled aluminium, lighter than steel, reducing the power required to move the vessel. The Yacht would have an energy-agnostic propulsion system based on efficient pod drives, enabling geostationary position-keeping without damaging sensitive seabeds with an anchor.
A large battery bank would power the pod drives and could be charged via shore power or onboard generators using renewable diesel/biofuel. It could also incorporate onboard-harvested solar, wind energy and green hydrogen fuel cells in the future.
An LED-tile ribbon and lighting scheme by Jason Bruges Studio turns the yacht into a lighting sculpture that projects the Union Jack in the water. Messages can also be created via the lighting system and displayed on the water.
The interior spaces have been developed to provide flexibility, from national showcase and exhibition space to state dinners and private receptions. A spectacular central atrium greets guests and visitors, and they can see wall-to-wall displays showing presentations appropriate to the role of the vessel at the time.
A large formal dining room at the aft can be configured in multiple ways. A greeting/bar area with breakout rooms, moveable partitions, or a vast exhibition area. If the National Flagship was required in a humanitarian role, the site could be used for supplies, a medical facility or a science lab.
“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,” Briand enthuses. “That is actually way more difficult than designing for even the most demanding individual!”
Team FestivAl’s National Flagship concept is more than just a design exercise; it celebrates the UK as a hotbed of design, engineering and manufacturing. A nation with a rich seafaring heritage and a world-leading future as a developer of sustainable technologies.
If you would like to read more about the brand’s design, please visit its website, https://vitruviusyachts.com.
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