Bluebottle is the yacht of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The Dragon class boat has undergone a thorough reconstruction and is back in service!
Back in line
The Bluebottle sailboat was a wedding gift to the then Princess Elizabeth and her husband, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The gift was presented by members of the Island Sailing Club in Coase. Interestingly, Bluebottle was built in 1947. It was built by the Camper & Nicholsons shipyard in Gosport.
Duke Philip took part in many races, driving the Bluebottle. By the way, not only Philip was a lover of sailing regattas - Prince Charles and Princess Anna took part with him.
Philip often lent the yacht to other yachtsmen. Among them were the victorious Graham Mann, Ronald Backus and Jonathan Janson. It was under their management that Bluebottle took third place at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. For the next nearly 40 years, the yacht was used as a training and training boat at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.
Despite the fact that Bluebottle underwent regular maintenance, she was unable to avoid restoration work. The last restoration took almost 18 months. And just recently, for the first time in 60 years, Bluebottle again took part in the regatta. Moreover, the team consisting of Graham and Julia Bailey, as well as the shipbuilder David Heritage, were able to show enviable results. So, Bluebottle won in its class at the Cowes Week competition, as well as third place at the Edinburgh Cup.
The restoration was quite difficult. Heritage says: “Despite the fact that the boat was maintained with all its might, it was clear that a full restoration was inevitable. Annual maintenance cannot save a wooden case from natural environmental influences. There was a fairly large deflection on the tank at all. To be honest, the boat was in pretty bad shape when we got it.”
Complicated restoration process
The restoration team, which included Heritage, had concerns about the preservation of the original shape of the hull. David says: “Due to the many rotten boards, there was a danger that we simply would not be able to put it back together after dismantling the hull. Nevertheless, our fears, thank God, were not confirmed. We carefully removed the deck, checked the insides of the boat. Then we carefully secured the deck with staples. This is how we managed to keep the original shape.”
The Heritage team installed four additional temporary bulkheads in order to safely capsize the hull. Only after the case was securely fixed, the specialists set to work.
They gradually removed almost every second board and cleaned them of dirt and damp parts that could not be restored. Fortunately and to the surprise of the team, most of the boards removed were in good condition. After the boards were restored and cleaned, the crew set them back on the Bluebottle hull.
Then there was a long stage of coating and gluing the edges of the boards with epoxy and dowels. When this stage was completed, it was the turn to apply the epoxy coating to the outer part of the body. Fiberglass was also used to strengthen the boards. So it was possible to create a more solid foundation for the design. After that, the body was puttied and painted. The final part of the restoration of the boat was the polishing of the surface of the hull to a shine.
Most of the body was saved. Alas, part of the stem and keel had to be slightly modernized and sheathed with an additional layer of new wood. Heritage says the Bluebottle's hull would be less durable without it.
New Bluebottle deck and general trend
The new deck was made of plywood with a thin layer of pine cladding. Thanks to the fine work of the carpenters, it was possible to achieve an external visual resemblance to the original flooring.
Interestingly, the roof and coaming remained original. The only innovation is a new varnish coating. Heritage says: “We are pleased with the work, because now the boat not only looks like new, but also an order of magnitude stronger.”
Bluebottle is a classic representative of the Dragon class. In fact, this class is one of the most numerous. The class was included in the program of the Olympic Games from 1948 to 1972. After 1972, Dragons began to lose popularity en masse. But something else is interesting - now the class is being actively revived by enthusiasts and yachting professionals. The movement is especially popular in Europe. Boats of approximately the same time period as the Bluebottle can be increasingly found on the seas of Europe. The British are especially active in the revival of the class.
Who do you think initiated the modernization and restoration of Bluebottle? Who wished to carry out just a restoration, but also make changes to the boat to make it more competitive?
Heritage shares his answer to this question: “The late duke was very eager to see the boat in action again. We did not immediately know who exactly was the customer of the work. It wasn't until we started resurfacing the deck that I contacted the work coordinator, Neil Rankin. It turned out that it was he who was the "link" between us and His Highness. Neal conveyed the Duke's wishes to us.
Philip told us that he would like Bluebottle to take part in the Edinburgh Cup. When we discussed options for upgrading the boat, Neil reminded us that the duke would like the boat to be restored for racing, and not for her to continue to rot somewhere in a remote marina. It is a pity that Philip did not see the yacht completed.
Heritage says the Duke regularly requested photographs from the job site and was pleased with the progress of the restoration process. While the original mast and boom could well have been reinstalled on the boat, Neil said that a new mast and boom should be fitted with modern materials.
Bluebottle will take part in European regattas of its class. The boat is now under the patronage of the Royal Yacht Britannia Trust. So far, the boat is at Leith Docks in Edinburgh. There, visitors can see the boat up close. In addition to the Bluebottle, the Duke of Edinburgh's two racing yachts, the Flying 15 Cowslip and the 63-foot Bloodhound, are stored at the same docks.
|Grotto area||27.7 m2|
|Spinnaker area||23.6 m2|
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