Ship shape: 5 of the world’s most spectacular royal yachts

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The Dannebrog

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This Danish royal yacht serves as an official and private residence for the Danish Queen and other members of the royal family when they are on summer cruises in home waters or on official visits overseas. Made in the naval work yard Orlogsvaerftet, Copenhagen, in 1931, the ship was baptised by Queen Alexandrine, the wife of King Christian X. The yacht has a rich history, with many decades of royalty aboard. King Frederick IX is known to have taken his showers on the boat's bridge, hosed down by a member of his team. It has been anchored in almost every port in Denmark, as well as Greenland, the Faroe Islands, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and all the way to the coastline of the US; training around 30 Danish naval conscripts every year. Based on the design of the floating palaces of the XIX century, the Dannebrog is more than just a boat.

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The largest privately owned super yacht in the world, this 180-metre vessel was built for Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi’s royal family, for use as a day boat to reach his favourite diving grounds. The boat can hold 36 guests and as many as 80 crew members - it also includes a gym, pool and a special ‘golf training room’. It is reported to have cost the sovereign approximately 600 million dollars. Filled with luxury, the engineers apparently worked to ensure that there is as little turbulence as possible, so that the chandeliers don’t tinkle at sea. Its record is soon to be beaten by a new yacht: the REV Ocean. A vessel which, at 183 metres, was designed by Norwegian millionaire Kjell Inge Rokke, and has been created to clean the ocean floors.

HMY Britannia 

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HMS Britannia 

Built in 1953 for the late Queen Elizabeth II (who was crowned that same year), after 44 years of service the HMS Britannia was decommissioned and is now on display in Edinburgh. The vast and lavishly designed yacht has sailed over one million miles, accommodating 968 official royal visits. The regal vessel was once described by Queen Elizabeth as ‘the one place where I can truly relax’. The boat boasts dining rooms adorned with gifts from around the world, including a whale rib found by her husband on a beach, as well as a sun lounge with furniture chosen by the queen, and a garage built to house the royal Rolls-Royce. Sir Winston Churchill, Boris Yeltsin, Rajiv Gandhi and Nelson Mandela are among those who have joined the Queen on board over the years. Four royal honeymoons have also taken place aboard, including King Charles III and Diana, Princess of Wales's 16-day trip to the Mediterranean in 1981.

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Le Norge is the pride of the Norwegian royal family, dating back to 1947. In 1905, after the Norwegians became independent from Sweden, they chose Prince Carl of Denmark as their monarch, proposing to him the yacht on his appointment. However, due to the difficult economic situation in Norway after the dissolution of the union with Sweden, King Haakon VII (formerly Prince Carl) did not call upon the Government to provide a yacht. Instead, the yacht was given as a gift from the people of Norway to their king decades later, purchased after the spread of a nationwide collection effort. The ship, which measures 80 metres in length is maintained by the Royal Norwegian Navy and sets sail during the summer months. It suffered a violent fire in 1985 while under maintenance, with only the shell and the motors saved from the incident. The impressive ship has since been entirely reconstructed. 

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Owned by Princess Caroline of Hanover, Pacha III has been passed from hand to hand since it was first put on water in 1936, under the name Arlette II. The 36-metre-long boat has had very many owners: in 1940 it was requisitioned by the Royal Navy, when it went back to the Mediterranean coast under the name Priamar. And in the '50s it was bought by French industrialist Louis Renault, who renamed it Briseis. The yacht was then sold to the painter Bernard Buffet, in 1967, who moored it in Saint-Tropez, in front of the ever glamorous L'Escale restaurant. 

In 1990, by now in a depleted state, it was sold to Stefano Casiraghi and Caroline of Hanover, who had it entirely renovated. Casiraghi was never able to enjoy the yacht, however, after he died during a racing accident that same year. It reportedly took more than two years to restore the vessel to its former splendour and renamed Pacha III (in reference to the initials of Princess Caroline’s children). It is now primarily used to take the Hanover Royal Family on extended Mediterranean escapes. 

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royalty queen elizabeth ii visit to the cayman islands

The Royal Yacht Britannia Has a Fascinating History—Here's Everything You Should Know

It doesn't get more majestic than Queen Elizabeth II's yacht.

“Britannia is special for a number of reasons,” Prince Phillip once said. “Almost every previous sovereign has been responsible for building a church, a castle, a palace or just a house. The only comparable structure in the present reign is Britannia. As such she is a splendid example of contemporary British design and technology.”

Although she retired from service in 1997, today the Britannia, one of many of the world's grandest yachts , is docked in Edinburgh, where she is open as a visitors’ attraction and host of private events. Below we give you all the Royal Yacht Britannia facts you might want to know, from who owns the yacht now to why she was decommissioned to how fast she is to how to get tickets to visit. Britannia was, after all, the one place the queen said she could “truly relax,” so why not see why for yourself?

queen royal yacht britannia in usa

Royal Yacht Britania Facts and History

On February 4, 1952, John Brown & Co shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland, received the order from the Admiralty to build a new Royal Yacht to travel the globe and double as a hospital ship in times of war, according to the royal yacht's website . King George VI passed away two days after, sadly, and so on April 16, 1953, the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II announced the yacht’s new name as the ship was revealed.

"I name this ship Britannia,” she said. “I wish success to her and all who sail in her." Britannia was commissioned into the Royal Navy in January 1954 and by April of that year sailed into her first overseas port: Grand Harbour, Malta.

royal yacht britannia facts staircase

The queen and The Duke of Edinburgh worked with interior designer Sir Hugh Casson for the ship to serve as both a functional Royal Navy vessel and an elegant royal residence. Queen Elizabeth II selected deep blue for Britannia’s hull, instead of the more traditional black. Its Naval crew included 220 Yachtsmen, 20 officers, and three season officers—plus a Royal Marines Band of 26 men during Royal Tours.

All of them might have had to change uniform up to six times a day, so the laundry service on board worked nonstop. The yacht also engaged in British overseas trade missions known as Sea Days and made an estimated £3 billion for the Exchequer between 1991 and 1995 alone.

royal yacht britannia facts drawing room

The ship’s wheel was taken from King Edward VII’s racing yacht, also named Britannia, according to Boat International , and the 126-meter ship could reach speeds of 22.75 knots, or a seagoing cruising speed of 21 knots, according to Super Yacht Times . Other fun facts: The yacht could produce her own fresh water from sea water, and shouting was forbidden aboard to preserve tranquility, favoring hand signals for Naval orders instead.

royal yacht britannia facts dining room

Over the next 44 years, the Britannia would sail the equivalent of once around the world for each year, in total visiting 600 ports in 135 countries. Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones were the first of four couples to honeymoon on the ship in 1960, gifting them all privacy to sail to secluded locations. Prince Charles and Princess Diana followed in 1981 on the Mediterranean as well as Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips before them in 1973 in the Caribbean and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1986 in the Azores.

diana and william

For family vacations aboard the ship, games, treasure hunts, plays, and picnics were organized, and on warm days the children could play in an inflatable paddling pool on the Verandah Deck.

royal yacht britannia facts sun lounge

In the Sun Lounge, the queen especially enjoyed taking breakfast and afternoon tea with views through large picture windows, a space you can see replicated in the TV show The Crown. Although no filming took place on board the Britannia for the show, researchers ensured scenes aboard it were accurate. In the queen’s bedroom, the resemblance is seen down to the decorative wall light fittings and embroidered silk panel above her bed that had been specially commissioned.

queen crying at britannia

In 1997, the ship was decommissioned after the government decided the costs to refit it would be too great. On its final day in her service that followed a farewell tour around the U.K., the queen openly wept as the Band of HM Royal Marines played "Highland Cathedral."

"Looking back over 44 years we can all reflect with pride and gratitude upon this great ship which has served the country, the Royal Navy and my family with such distinction," Queen Elizabeth II said. All clocks on the ship stopped at 15:01, the exact time the Queen disembarked from the yacht for the final time, and they would remain at that time until the present.

royal yacht britannia facts clock

How to Tour the Royal Yacht Britania

Today the yacht is owned by Royal Yacht Britannia Trus t, and all revenue it generates goes to the yacht’s maintenance and preservation. Ticketed entry allows you to step into state rooms like the Sun Lounge, the State Dining Room and State Drawing Room, in addition to the working side of the ship in the Crew’s Quarters, Laundry and gleaming Engine Room. Along the way you will see original artifacts from the shop—95 percent of which is on loan from The Royal Collection.

the royal yacht britannia

How to Visit the Royal Britania

You can visit the Britannia any day of the year on Edinburgh’s waterfront. Hours vary by season, and you can find them listed and purchase tickets on the yacht’s website . Private tours are also available, and you can visit the Royal Deck Tearoom, where the Royal Family hosted cocktail parties and receptions, for drinks, meals and scones. Additionally, the Britannia hosts special ticketed events for New Year’s and other occasions, and event spaces can be booked as well.

While you are in Edinburgh, you can also stay on the Fingal , a neighboring yacht-turned-floating-hotel, which is a seven-minute walk from the Britannia, and dine at its Lighthouse Restaurant & Bar, which serves breakfast, afternoon tea, dinner, and cocktails.

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royal yachts of the world

The History Hit Miscellany of Facts, Figures and Fascinating Finds

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10 Facts About Royal Yacht Britannia

royal yachts of the world

Peta Stamper

28 nov 2022.

royal yachts of the world

The 83rd and last in a long line of royal yachts, HMY Britannia has become one of the most famous ships in the world. Now permanently moored at Edinburgh’s Port of Leith, the floating palace is a visitor attraction welcoming some 300,000 people aboard each year.

For Queen Elizabeth II, Britannia was the ideal residence for state visits and peaceful royal family holidays and honeymoons. For the British public, Britannia was a symbol of Commonwealth. For the 220 naval officers who lived aboard Britannia , and the royal family, the 412-foot-long yacht was home.

Having travelled more than a million nautical miles over 44 years of service to the British Crown, Her Majesty’s beloved boat was decommissioned in 1997. Here are 10 facts about life aboard HMY Britannia.

1. Britannia was launched by Queen Elizabeth II on 16 April 1953 using a bottle of wine, not champagne

Champagne is traditionally smashed against a ship’s hull during launching ceremonies. However, in a post-war climate champagne was seen as too frivolous, so a bottle of Empire wine was used instead.

Britannia launched from the John Brown & Company shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland.

royal yachts of the world

2. Britannia was the 83rd Royal Yacht

King George VI , Elizabeth II’s father, had first commissioned the royal yacht that would become Britannia in 1952. The previous official boat had belonged to Queen Victoria and was rarely used. The tradition of royal yachts had been started by Charles II in 1660.

George decided that the Royal Yacht Britannia should both be a regal vessel as well as a functional one.

3. Britannia had two emergency functions

Britannia was designed to be converted into a hospital ship in time of war, although that function was never used. Additionally, as part of the Cold War plan Operation Candid, in the event of nuclear war the ship would become a refuge off the north-west coast of Scotland for the Queen and Prince Philip.

4. Her maiden voyage was from Portsmouth to Grand Harbour in Malta

She carried Prince Charles and Princess Anne to Malta to meet the Queen and Prince Philip at the end of the royal couple’s Commonwealth tour. The Queen stepped aboard Britannia for the first time in Tobruk on 1 May 1954.

Over the next 43 years, Britannia would transport the Queen, members of the Royal Family and various dignitaries on some 696 foreign visits.

royal yachts of the world

The HMY Britannia on a visit by the Queen to Canada in 1964

Image Credit: Royal Canadian Navy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

5. Britannia hosted some of the 20th century’s most notable figures

In July 1959, Britannia sailed the newly opened Saint Lawrence Seaway to Chicago where she docked, making the Queen the first British monarch to visit the city. US President Dwight Eisenhower hopped aboard Britannia for part of the journey.

In later years, Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton would also step aboard. Charles and Diana, the Prince and Princess of Wales, took their honeymoon cruise on Britannia in 1981.

6. The crew were volunteers from the Royal Navy

After 365 days’ service, crew members could be admitted to the Permanent Royal Yacht Service as Royal Yachtsmen (‘Yotties’) and serve until they either chose to leave or were dismissed. As a result, some yachtsmen served on  Britannia  for over 20 years.

The crew also included a detachment of Royal Marines, who would dive underneath the ship each day while moored away from home to check for mines or other threats.

7. All royal children were allocated a ‘Sea Daddy’ on board the ship

The ‘sea daddies’ were primarily tasked with looking after the children and keeping them entertained (games, picnics and water fights) during voyages. They also oversaw the children’s chores, including cleaning the life rafts.

royal yachts of the world

8. There was a ‘Jelly Room’ onboard for the royal children

The yacht had a total of three galley kitchens where Buckingham Palace ‘s chefs prepared meals. Among these galleys was a chilled room called the ‘Jelly Room’ for the sole purpose of storing royal children’s jellied desserts.

9. It cost around £11 million every year to run Britannica

The cost of running Britannia was always an issue. In 1994, another expensive refit for the ageing vessel was proposed. Whether or not to refit or commission a new royal yacht entirely came down to the election result of 1997. With repairs at a proposed cost of £17 million, Tony Blair’s new Labour government were unwilling to commit public funds to replace Britannica.

royal yachts of the world

HMY Britannia in 1997, London

Image Credit: Chris Allen, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

10. All the clocks on board remain stopped at 3:01pm

In December 1997,  Britannia was officially decommissioned. The clocks have been kept at 3:01pm – the exact moment the Queen went ashore for the last time following the ship’s decommissioning ceremony, during which the Queen shed a rare public tear.

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Royal superyachts: how kings and queens sail the sea.

  • Magisterial mega-yachts have ferried royals around the world
  • "Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia" is one of the most splendid examples
  • Others include yachts owned by the royal families of Dubai, Monaco and Norway

(CNN) -- Before luxury yachting was the preserve of Russian tycoons and Silicon Valley moguls, it was only the world's wealthiest royals who built palaces on the sea.

There have been and continue to be a fleet of imperial yachts used to transport royals, from Russian czars to princes of Monaco, in the opulent fashion to which they are accustomed.

"Britannia"

There are probably few finer examples of a regal leisure boat than "Her Majesty's Yacht (HMY) Britannia," built in 1953 for Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

Now decommissioned and on display in Edinburgh, Scotland, the vast and lavishly designed " HMY Britannia " has sailed over one million miles during 44 years of service and in the course of 968 official royal visits.

Once described by Queen Elizabeth as "the one place where I can truly relax," the royal yacht, built to many of the queen's specifications, boasts huge dining rooms adorned with gifts and curiosities from around the world, including a whale rib found by her husband on a beach.

In addition, there's a sun lounge with furniture chosen by the queen and a garage built to house the royal Rolls-Royce.

Sir Winston Churchill, Boris Yeltsin, Rajiv Gandhi and Nelson Mandela are among the famous names who have joined the queen on board over the years, but "HMY Britannia" was also deployed for more private and romantic occasions.

As Kate and William add the finishing touches to their wedding plans , they may well feel a pang of regret that "Britannia" is no longer in service. Four royal honeymoons took place on board, including Prince Charles and Princess Diana's 16-day trip in the Mediterranean.

"Dubai"

Today, the undisputed champion of royal vessels belongs to Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, whose $300 million mega-yacht is christened -- somewhat unimaginatively -- "Dubai."

Measuring 524 feet long, it's the world's second-largest yacht, eclipsed only by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich's suitably named "Eclipse."

Three elevators and one vast open glass stairway serve its multitude of decks which, aside from the gold-finished, jewel-encrusted VIP guestrooms and appropriately palatial master bedrooms, contain a squash room, spa, banquet hall and cinema. And did we mention the helicopter pad up top?

In keeping with the fantasy-flavored extravagance of "Dubai," the yacht is moored year-round on the artificial "Logo Island," situated next to the country's emblematic, man-made archipelago "Palm Islands" -- built from one billion cubic meters of rock and sand.

"Standart"

If you thought that Abramovich and his fellow billionaires were the first of their countrymen to build ultra-ostentatious pleasure boats, then think again.

The Russian imperial yacht "Standart," built according to the specifications of Emperor Alexander III and his son Nicholas, was the largest imperial yacht on the oceans during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Completed in 1895, the opulent vessel was 401 feet long -- about the length of a soccer pitch -- colossal even by today's immodest standards.

Indeed, "Standart" was a veritable floating palace, adorned with mahogany-paneled drawing rooms, formal salons with polished floors, brass fittings, crystal chandeliers and velvet drapes.

The czar's private study was furnished in dark leather and elegant wooden furniture, while the czarina's drawing room and boudoir were bedecked in her favorite English chintz. The imperial yacht even had its own chapel for the private use of the family.

However, Russia's largest royal yacht was also her last. After the revolution in 1917, the ship was stripped of all its elegance, renamed "Vosemnadtsate Martza" and refitted as a drab, gray minelayer for service in the Soviet Navy. The boat was scrapped at Tallinn in Estonia in 1963.

"M/Y Grace"

Decked out with a Jacuzzi, sea kayaks, snorkeling gear and wetsuits, "M/Y Grace" is one of the few specially tailored yachts fit to chart the delicate waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands.

The boat's regal past is only hinted at in its name. "M/Y Grace," as the vessel is now known, was once the royal yacht of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco.

When American actress Grace Kelly married the prince of Monaco, the couple were extensively pictured honeymooning on this exquisite 147-foot-long yacht, given to them as a wedding gift by prominent Greek shipping merchant Aristotle Onassis.

The boat was captured on boundless newsreels as cameras and reporters followed Kelly on her last voyage from the United States to her new home in what was then styled "the wedding of the century." The couple left the day after the ceremony to cruise the coasts of Corsica and Sardinia.

"K/S Norge"

The K/S Norge is one of the last active royal yachts in Europe, belonging to Herald V, King of Norway.

Built in 1937 by Camper and Nicholson, the oldest leisure marine company in the world, the boat was originally owned by British aviation pioneer Sir Thomas Sopwith -- who had given it over to the UK's Royal Navy to serve as a convoy escort vessel during World War II.

In July 1947, the ship was purchased by the people of Norway as a present to the much beloved King Haakon VII for his 75th birthday. The royal yacht was renamed "Norge," the Norwegian word for Norway.

Still used today for state visits abroad, the classically shaped yacht is also employed as a base for the king when he competes in international yacht races.

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The Royal Yacht Britannia : A History of Queen Elizabeth II’s Favorite Palace

By Lisa Liebman

The Royal Yacht Britannia in Hong Kong during its last voyage in July of 1997.

The christening of The Royal Yacht Britannia serves as a cheeky season opener to  The Crown . Black-and-white Pathé News–style footage shows a soon-to-be-crowned Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) cheered on by shipbuilders as she launches her new 412-foot yacht. “I hope that this brand-new vessel, like your brand-new queen, will prove to be dependable and constant. Capable of weathering any storm,” she says about the royal replacement for the  Victoria and Albert III . By the series’ season finale, set 44 years later, both the sovereign and the floating palace she christened  Britannia will have hit rough seas—the cost of repairing the creaky old vessel and the modern role of the monarchy both in question. Ultimately, the yacht that undertook 968 official voyages all over the world, hosting dignitaries—including 13 US presidents—at receptions and banquets, was dry-docked near Edinburgh, Scotland, where it continues to be a popular tourist attraction. Here are some of the most buoyant facts about the palace the Queen famously said was “the one place where I can truly relax.”

The sun room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1981.

The sun room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1981. 

In a nod to the country’s post-war austerity, Elizabeth scaled back the design of the ship that her father, King George VI, had commissioned just two days before he died. Rather than following the opulent plan laid out by the Scottish firm McInnes Gardner & Partners, she opted for the understated elegance envisioned by architect Sir Hugh Casson, who described “running a lawn mower over the Louis XVIl adornments” in favor of simple white walls, lilac-gray carpeting, and “a bit of gilding in grand places.” Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Phillip, were said to have personally chosen the furniture—much of it, including linens, recycled from the  Victoria and Albert —fabrics (florals, chintz, toile), and paintings. 

Prince Charles and Princess Diana on board the Royal Yacht Britannia as they prepare to depart on their honeymoon cruise...

Prince Charles and Princess Diana on board the Royal Yacht Britannia as they prepare to depart on their honeymoon cruise in 1981.

As a former Royal Navy Commander, Prince Phillip also saw to the ship’s technical details, and his Bluebottle racing yacht inspired the Britannia ’s navy-hued hull. Outer decks were made of two-inch Burmese teak. The steering wheel was reclaimed from Britannia ’s namesake, King Edward VII’s 1893 racing yacht; a wheelhouse wheel came from George V’s racing yacht; and a gold-and-white binnacle (housing the ship’s compass) was salvaged from King George III’s yacht and installed on the Veranda deck. Fittings from former royal ships were also reused. 

The drawing room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1978.

The drawing room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1978. 

The 4,000-ton yacht had a crew of 220 Royal Yachtsmen who lived on board, about 45 household staff, and occasionally a 26-member Royal Marine embarked to entertain dignitaries. The monarch often welcomed guests from the ship’s grand staircase. (Stairs leading from the Veranda to the Royal deck were sometimes transformed into a water slide for the kids.)  Britannia ’s apartments were designed like those of a first-class ocean liner. A 56-seat state dining room, where many of the gifts given to the monarch (a wood-carved shark from Pitcairn Island, a bejeweled gold statue from Bangkok) were displayed, was the scene of formal dinners with guests such as Sir Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Nelson Mandela, and Bill and Hillary Clinton. More intimate gatherings were held in the Queen’s official reception room, a smaller state drawing room with floral upholstered pieces, simple wood tables, an electric fireplace, and a Welmar baby grand piano bolted to the deck—played by everyone from Sir Noël Coward to Princesses Diana and Margaret. The teak-clad sun lounge, with rattan furniture and a toile loveseat, was Elizabeth’s favorite place—where she had her breakfast, afternoon tea, and also enjoyed her favorite Dubonnet and gin cocktails.

The Queens sitting room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1981.

The Queen’s sitting room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1981. 

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A ship elevator reserved for royal use moved between the Upper and Shelter Decks. The latter is where four Royal Apartments (bedrooms), including the Queen and Prince Phillip’s connecting compartments, were located. Hers featured florals, his had red accents. Elizabeth’s understated Upper Deck private sitting room, done in pastels and neutrals, served as the office where she conducted state business. Phillip used his sitting room, with its wood desk facing a model of his first command, the HMS Magpie , as his study. Below deck there was a wine cellar, as well as a cargo hold that could carry a barge, speed- and sailboats, plus a royal Range Rover and Rolls-Royce. The yacht could also be converted into a hospital (though it never was).

The Queen shed a tear at the decommissioning ceremony for thye Royal Yacht Britannia.

The Queen shed a tear at the decommissioning ceremony for thye Royal Yacht Britannia.

As depicted in  The Crown, Britannia ’s final official trip was to Hong Kong in 1997, where Prince Charles attended the handover of the territory to China. By then, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s administration was complaining that the £11 million a year needed to keep the boat afloat couldn’t be justified. With Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, and all of their children in attendance,  Britannia was decommissioned at a ceremony in Portsmouth, England on December 11, 1997, with the monarch seen wiping away a tear. The yacht, now docked in Leith, Scotland, is open to the public as a museum and events space. (Prior to their wedding, Princess Anne and Mark Phillips’s daughter Zara Phillips and her fiancé Mike Tindall had a celebration there.) Visitors will note that every clock on board reads 3:01, the exact time the Queen disembarked her beloved  Britannia for the final time on that December day.

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Step aboard The Royal Yacht Britannia

Start your tour at our entrance on the Ground Floor of Ocean Terminal.

Please pre-book your tickets to guarantee admission.

A great day out for all the family, explore each of the five decks at this top attraction in Edinburgh and discover what life was like on board Queen Elizabeth II's former floating palace. 

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royal yachts of the world

The Royal Yacht Squadron - A History

Founded in 1815, the Royal Yacht Squadron is one of the most prestigious and exclusive yacht clubs in the world, and enjoys a rich history after more than 200 years. In 2016 a new history of the Royal Yacht Squadron was published by Unicorn Press, Making Waves Two Hundred Years of The Royal Yacht Squadron, described by Classic Boat magazine as ‘ a magnificent book ’ with ‘ stunning design ’. It can be bought from Unicorn Publishing Group.

Alternatively an in house produced "Royal Yacht Squadron - A Short History" is available here . 

The Yacht Club, as the Squadron was first known, was founded at the Thatched House Tavern in St James’s, London, on the 1st of June 1815. The qualification entitling a gentleman to become a member was the ownership of a vessel not under 10 tons. Today this is interpreted as a gentleman “ actively interested in yachting ”. A plain white burgee graced the masthead of members’ yachts; they also wore a plain white ensign with the union in the canton. In 1821 this was changed to a red burgee and ensign.

The Earl of Yarborough, later first Commodore of the Yacht Club, welcomed the Prince Regent as a member in 1817. In 1820, when the Prince Regent became George IV, Royal was added to the club’s name. The Club’s association with the Royal Navy began early and Nelson’s Captain at Trafalgar, Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy, was among early Honorary Naval members.

In 1826, the Club took to organising yacht racing as a principal feature of the annual regatta at Cowes. In 1828, the rule requiring a yacht on the port tack to give way to another on starboard was introduced.

During the 1840’s, in response to the formation of other yacht clubs, races open to non-RYS yachts were also introduced.

The spirit of invention induced by competition led to yachts “of such celerity in sailing and beauty of construction” that they were of utility to the Royal Navy. In 1829 the Admiralty issued a warrant to wear what is now the Navy’s white ensign. The burgee, in compliment, is differenced with a St George’s cross and crown. Lord Yarborough’s Falcon led a rally to Cherbourg in 1831. In 1833 the Club became the Royal Yacht Squadron by command of His Majesty King William IV.

Lord Wilton’s time as Commodore was full of incident and achievement. World-wide cruising continued to flourish. Ben Boyd, in his schooner Wanderer, visited the Solomon Islands and was devoured by cannibals. In the same year, 1851, Commodore Stevens, visiting the Great Exhibition, challenged for the Squadron’s £100 Cup for a race around the Island. America’s victory was witnessed by Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales, later Commodore and Edward VII.

The Marquess of Anglesea was so surprised at America’s speed that he thought she must have had a propeller. Deerhound RYS witnessed the sea fight between Kearsarge and Alabama. Gazelle RYS rescued the Empress Eugenie at the end of the Franco Prussian War and Squadron yachts took succour to the troops in the Crimea. Lord Brassey’s Sunbeam logged 37,000 nautical miles girdling the earth.

royal yachts of the world

The Golden Age of Cowes was heralded by the election of the Prince of Wales as Commodore. There had been a chapter of disagreement between the newly fledged YRA, the Squadron and other old established clubs over racing rules. The YRA seemed to favour the racing machine, while the Squadron felt that cruising yachts should still have a look in.

The Prince would not tolerate further dissension and peace of a sort was in the air. The Squadron was not only forwarding new ideas to the YRA, but successfully beating all comers under the new rule with Sleuthhound, to be followed by the legendary and remodelled Bloodhound, whose mast is now the Squadron’s flag staff.

The German Emperor brought his Meteor, the 1887 ex America’s Cup challenger Thistle, to Cowes in 1892. This encouraged the Prince of Wales to build Britannia, one of the most successful racing yachts in the calendar. Lord Crawford’s beautiful ship rigged yacht Valhalla cruised far afield and was a noted visitor in Cowes Week; she was also a competitor in the 1905 Transatlantic Race for the German Emperor’s Cup. Her owner, a member with a keen interest in astronomy, had sailed to Mauritius to observe the transit of Venus.

During dinner in the Castle one night, Lord Crawford pointed to a star, observing that one day it may run into the earth. “ If it does ”, Sir Hercules Langrishe replied, “ I hope we will be on the starboard tack ”. World War I broke out inconsiderately during Cowes Week in 1914; both Squadron yachts and yachtsmen were to play their part in that conflict.

After the war, the ladies arrived. They had been entertained before in the “Deer Park”, as the lawn was named in their honour, but it was not until the Squadron secured the ballroom below Castle Rock (now the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club) from Rosa Lewis of Cavendish Hotel fame, that they had a roof of their own. The Six Metres became popular after the First War, encouraged by the British American Cup.

The popularity of the smaller racing boat owes much to two members, Sir Ralph Gore and Sir Kenneth Preston. However, the focus was still on the big class and the public flocked to Cowes to see the J’s – Britannia, Shamrock V and later Endeavour I, thunder past the Green. Tom Sopwith, with the first of his Endeavours, came as near as the Squadron has ever done so far in winning back the “Auld Mug” as the America’s Cup is affectionately known.

Sir Philip Hunloke was the first President of the newly formed Ocean Racing Club and, with Sir Ralph Gore, encouraged the Fastnet Race, first won by Jolie Brise in 1925. The Second World War saw the RYS Castle as part of HMS Vectis and head-quarters of ‘J’ Force. After the War, at the suggestion of Peter Scott, King George VI presented the Britannia Cup, one of the most celebrated races of Cowes Week.

royal yachts of the world

1948-Present Day

The decade following the end of the War was called the “age of austerity and reverse sheer”. Neither were good looking. However, Bluebottle, the Dragon owned by the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, gave small boat racing a kick start. Speed was becoming acceptable too, and Peter du Cane with Vospers was a pioneer. Tommy Sopwith won the first off-shore power boat race to Torquay in 1961.

The moving spirit behind this and the Boat Show was Max Aitken. In 1957, Hugh Goodson, who helped to found the Sail Training Association, headed the 1958 Squadron challenge for the America’s Cup. Captain Henry Denham and Lord Camrose explored the Mediterranean and the former wrote his remarkable guides. In 1966/67 Sir Francis Chichester sailed on his own round the world, which led to the Chichester Trophy, presented by The Duke of Westminster, and the Whitbread Round the World Race. Sir Owen Aisher produced Yeoman after Yeoman and Ted Heath won the Sydney – Hobart with Morning Cloud in 1969. The Admiral’s Cup enlivened racing at Cowes.

The first Chairman of the Cowes Combined Clubs in 1964 was Lord Runciman. Cowes was changing. Two Commodores, Sir John Nicholson and John Roome, consolidated the Squadron’s position and Sir Maurice Laing gave Cowes the chance, through a Trust, to take over the marina.

The Castle itself was fitted for ladies in the 1960s. The brass hot water cans disappeared in favour of the bedroom basin and the radiator made its appearance. The Pavilion, designed by Sir Thomas Croft, was opened in 2000. This elegant creation provides on shore facilities for yachtsmen and their families while allowing the Castle to retain its ‘Country house’ ambiance.

The Pavilion also enabled the Squadron to cross burgees with the New York Yacht Club in celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Schooner America’s famous victory of 1851. The latest alteration is the RYS Jubilee Haven which, together with the Cowes Harbour Commission pontoon off the Parade, does much to enliven the scene on the water for the visitor to Cowes.

Royal Yacht Squadron

The Castle, Cowes, Isle of Wight, P031 7QT

Tel: +44 (0) 1983 292 191

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The Royal Yacht: History

The Norwegian Royal Yacht Norge is one of the world’s two remaining royal yachts. The other is the Danish Royal Yacht Dannebrog , since the British Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997.

In 1905 the Norwegian Government formally invited Prince Carl of Denmark to become the king of Norway. The proposal included the promise of a royal yacht, financed by the state and placed at the king’s disposal. However, due to the difficult economic situation in Norway after the dissolution of the union with Sweden, King Haakon (formerly Prince Carl) did not call upon the Government to provide a yacht.

Gift from the people

Not until after WWII did the question of a royal yacht arise again. The Norwegian press appealed to the people to raise the funds necessary to present King Haakon with a yacht on the occasion of his 75th birthday. In July 1947, the British motor yacht Philante was purchased for NOK 1.5 million.

The Philante was built in England in 1937 for the British aircraft manufacturer Thomas Sopwith. At the time it was one of the largest vessels of its kind. Sopwith used the yacht as a base when competing in regattas. In fact, the Philante first entered Norwegian waters in 1938 in connection with a regatta at Hankø in Eastern Norway.

The name Philante is an amalgam of the owner’s wife’s name, Phyllis, and the owner’s name, Thomas: Phil (short for “Phyllis”) + an (short for “and”) + t (for “Thomas) + e (to add an extra syllable).

Convoy escort vessel

After the outbreak of WWII the British Royal Navy requisitioned the Philante . First used as an escort vessel for convoys crossing the Atlantic, it was put into service as a school ship for training convoy escorts in 1942. The ship was returned to Thomas Sopwith in 1946 and sold to Norway the following year.

Renovation of the ship

The ship needed to be refurbished before it could be used, so King Haakon was given a model of the yacht on his 75th birthday. In particular, the interior of the ship required extensive refitting, and architect Finn Nilsson was asked to be the designer. On 17 May 1948 the ship’s captain, Commander Christian Monsen, raised the command pennant for the first time, and on 9 June the Royal Yacht was handed over to King Haakon.

The ship was christened the Norge .

The Royal Yacht

In the years that followed, King Haakon used the Royal Yacht to visit communities along the coast of Norway and to travel abroad. In June 1955 the King paid a visit to Molde in Western Norway. It was to be his final voyage on the Norge.

King Olav took over the ship after his father died in 1957. A technical assessment resulted in a 10-year plan for upgrading the hull and technical equipment. Like his father before him, King Olav used the Royal Yacht in his official capacity as well as in his leisure time.

In the winter of 1985 the Norge was in dry dock at the Horten Shipyard for repair and upgrading when welding operations sparked a fire that quickly spread. The vessel was severely damaged in the fire, with the exception of the hull and engines, which remained relatively intact. King Olav decided that the ship was to be rebuilt.

Once again, architect Finn Nilsson was asked to refit the interior. Just over a year after the fire the King was again able to take command of the Royal Yacht, in safer and in better technical condition than had previously been the case.

The Royal Yacht today

HM King Harald took over the Norge after King Olav died in 1991. The King and Queen travel on board the Norge in connection with official engagements in Norway and abroad. The King also uses the vessel as a base when competing in major yacht races. 

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Facts & figures Length (overall): 80.2 metres Breadth: 11.6 metres Depth: 4.7 metres Gross tonnage:  1,628  tonnes Maximum speed: 16 knots Cruising speed: 14 knots Range: 6,500 nautical miles Home port: Oslo Call sign: LAMA Main class: 1A1 Yacht Engines: Two 1,760-hp Bergen diesel engines Built by: Camper & Nicholsons Ltd, Gosport, England, 1937  

  • The Royal Yacht today (Article)

Royal Huisman

SPECIAL ONE

… just before her first trials on the North Sea this Friday. The powerful hull of this unique vessel measures 52m / 171ft overall, and her towering profile accommodates six decks. These remarkable features not only make her the largest, but also the most luxurious and individually true sportfish yacht in the world: the ultimate expression of personal freedom.

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Special One is designed for an experienced owner who is passionate about fishing. She is a unique vessel in many respects. Vripack Yacht Design is responsible for the exterior and interior design and naval architecture of this highly prestigious project. Her design is extremely distinctive, with a long bow and high bulwarks sweeping through a clear sheer to a low and uncluttered cockpit aft. The high tower offers outstanding views with a downward angle on the water for specialized fishing. Apart from its practical function, the tower also offers a superb viewing platform for guests, who can follow all the action below.

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The world’s largest true sportfish yacht effortlessly blends the ultimate sports fishing experience with genuine superyacht scale, comfort, and refinement. Her Alustar® aluminum hull and superstructure offer strength and resilience, as well as the lighter weight that facilitates smooth and efficient passages from berth to fishing grounds. Not only is she the largest, but without a doubt, the most bespoke, finely appointed, meticulously engineered, and most impressive true sportfish yacht anywhere in the world, matching a typical bespoke Royal Huisman motor yacht. Special One will turn heads wherever she goes.

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Special One will make an impression in the marina: her exterior laser lighting innovation is the next trend in lighting and jointly developed by Royal Huisman and Fibr8.com for various projects of the shipyard

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Today’s first sea trial: this is what 30+ knots looks like on Royal Huisman’s Special One

Main specifications of Special One | type: Sport Fish Yacht | length overall: 52m / 171ft “world’s largest true sportfish yacht” | exterior, interior design and naval architecture: Vripack Yacht Design | owner’s representative: Pascarelli Consulting working with Bush & Noble and Hampshire Marine | builder: Royal Huisman | hull & superstructure: Alustar® aluminium. Information is restricted to the main specifications above.

Bespoke motoryachts without compromise Royal Huisman’s reputation has been largely built on a superlative portfolio of thirty-plus unique and tailor-made, low-profile sailing superyachts, but the legendary passion for perfection, expertise, quality, experience, flexibility and continuous innovation is not limited to these… The individual aspirations and challenges of both Project 403 and current motoryacht Project 406 were deemed to be outside the comfort zone of some yards, but both owners presented their highly distinctive individual projects to Royal Huisman – where fresh opportunities for creative problem-solving and innovation were enthusiastically welcomed. Keen to learn more? Read on at this website: news > inhuis stories & updates > bespoke motoryachts by Royal Huisman [ link ]

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royal yachts of the world

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Royal Yachts of the World

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Royal Yachts of the World Hardcover – June 1, 2003

  • Print length 193 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher Adlard Coles Nautical
  • Publication date June 1, 2003
  • Dimensions 9.5 x 0.75 x 12.25 inches
  • ISBN-10 0901281743
  • ISBN-13 978-0901281746
  • See all details

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Adlard Coles Nautical (June 1, 2003)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 193 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0901281743
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0901281746
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2.83 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 9.5 x 0.75 x 12.25 inches
  • #3,596 in Ship History (Books)
  • #4,010 in Boating (Books)

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First look: WING 100 – one of the world’s largest megayachts

  • Toby Hodges
  • October 27, 2022

Royal Huisman reveal 100m megayacht. The radical Wing 100 concept is designed to be a true sailing yacht, not 'sail assisted'

royal yachts of the world

A dream team of superyacht heavyweights have collaborated to produce this ambitious future-proofed megayacht sailing concept, one which, if built, would rank in the top five largest sailing yachts in the world.

The famed Dutch yard Royal Huisman worked with big rig specialists Dykstra Naval Architects and British interior designer Mark Whitely to visualise this extraordinary 100m/330ft craft.  

Were it to be commissioned, it would be built in aluminium and is designed to be a true sailing yacht rather than a motoryacht with sails (such as Sailing Yacht A , the world’s largest at 142m). It’s also one that the design team predict can be easily handled thanks in part to its innovative airfoil wingmasts.  

royal yachts of the world

The WING100 will be one of the top five biggest sailing yachts every built. Images: Royal Huisman

The relative simplicity of the push-button controlled sailing systems is also a factor which should help the project appeal to motorboaters wanting to reduce their environmental impact, thinks Royal Huisman.

It predicts that the efficiency of the rig means that WING 100 will consume less than 20% of the energy required by an equivalent motoryacht on passage, which equates to over 225,000lt of fuel per year.

The twin 73m free standing, rotating  wing masts would be built by Royal Huisman’s sister company Rondal. These have airfoil profiles, can be remotely adjusted to help increase or decrease power, and help to minimise deck clutter.

royal yachts of the world

The bow has a 60-degree chamfer

The wing masts prioritise the ability to set sails quickly, easily and comfortably and incorporate 480m 2 of solar panels that can generate 250kW a day. The experience of Dykstra will be invaluable in the rig development thanks to its work with the ground-breaking and well proven DynaRig projects Maltese Falcon and Black Pearl .  

The Vollenhove yard is one of the only few capable of such a formidable project, having previously launched Athena (90m) and Sea Eagle II (81m) and with the 85m Project 410 currently in build.

“The emergence of sailing yachts on this scale, with the level of energy efficiency and eco-responsibility offered by WING 100, would have been unthinkable just a decade ago”, states Royal Huisman CEO Jan Timmerman.  

royal yachts of the world

WING 100 Specifications

LOA: 100m/330ft

Construction: aluminium

Air draught: 73m/239ft

Rig: Rondal carbon rig with Integrated Sailing System. Unstayed rotating wing masts, carbon furling booms

Speed: 24+ knots

Accommodation: 12 guests + nanny/governess + 16 crew

Design & interior: Dykstra Naval Architects/Mark Whiteley Design

Builder: Royal Huisman

The World

When they ask where you’re from: The World

Explore every ocean and continent in luxurious comfort. As an owner aboard The World , you’re part of a unique international community of adventurers living aboard the largest private residential yacht on Earth.

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Choosing a Journey of endless exploration.

Every Resident of The World has a voice in choosing the extraordinary destinations and curated experiences of each year’s itinerary.

The most extraordinary Home you will ever own.

Each of the 165 Residences aboard The World is a luxurious, custom-designed private Home. Will you own a stylish Studio, comfortable one-bedroom Residence, or a sprawling two- or three-bedroom Ocean Residence?

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Each year, Residents of The World have the opportunity to join our extraordinary Expeditions. These weeks-long voyages range across some of the most remote and fascinating waters and lands on Earth, led by preeminent experts in ecology, culture, and adventurous exploration.

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Determine whether life aboard The World is the right fit for you. Talk to one of our Residential Advisors today to learn more about this unique lifestyle, details of upcoming Journeys and Expeditions, and ownership opportunities.

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A New Royal Yacht Is Coming

  • By Phil Draper
  • January 7, 2022

Royal yacht

There are yachts, and there are superyachts, but royal yachts tend to be something else again. The United Kingdom hasn’t had a royal yacht for almost 25 years, but the British government just announced its intention to replace Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia .

No firm details have been released of what this replacement could be, but design proposals were recently invited. Time is of the essence, given that the official policy statement came with a proposed launch date just three years away.

The open brief suggests that what is needed now is less yacht, more national ship—a world-first build. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he sees the vessel as more of a floating embassy to support royals and government ministers alike.

Royal yacht

That concept is broadly familiar. During its 44-year service life as a ship of state, Britannia racked up more than 1 million nautical miles and 696 foreign visits. Every itinerary was about promoting the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, and trade promotion was always a part of the job description. For instance, Britannia made several trips to the United States, including both coasts and Chicago via the St. Lawrence Seaway. Various presidents and their wives were guests aboard, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

But what defines a royal yacht?

It’s not just about scale, although the eight-deck, all-steel Britannia was one of the biggest yachts in the world when it launched. It was built at Scotland’s John Brown and Co. of Clydebank, the same yard that built the ocean liners RMS Queen Elizabeth and RMS Queen Mary . Britannia entered service in January 1954, one year after Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. Her late husband, Prince Philip, was a former naval officer and enthusiastically oversaw Britannia’s specification and construction.

Royal yacht

The yacht, beyond its routine duties, could rapidly convert to a 200-bed hospital ship or an offshore refuge for the royal family in case of nuclear war. Britannia is 412 feet length overall, has a 55-foot beam and measures 5,862 gross tons. Thanks to two turbine sets producing up to 12,000 hp, Britannia was capable of a continuous 21 knots throughout its service years.

Those were the days when a yacht of that size was unusual: There are now almost 30 giga-yachts afloat with more gross tonnage than Britannia . Only a quarter of them have any obvious royal affiliations.

But in its day, Britannia was an operation to behold. The yacht was home to 21 officers and 256 sailors of the British Royal Navy and could host functions with 250 guests. The staterooms and staff quarters were aft, and the crew were forward. The yacht’s complement included a Royal Marines guard detachment in separate onboard barracks, a 26-strong military band, and a full general surgery team with an operating theater. The permanent noncommissioned crew were known affectionately as the “yotties.”

Royal yacht

Britannia was where the most senior members of the royal family stayed when on suitable official visits. It was not where they would normally spend vacations, although Prince Charles and Princess Diana famously used Britannia for a honeymoon cruise in the Mediterranean. They had the yacht’s only double bed installed aboard.

As for Britannia’s successor, various sources have quoted ballpark figures for the build in the low hundreds of millions of dollars. The final specification will depend on how much space is practical for conference and entertainment areas, the number of guest staterooms, the crew complement, helicopter use, tenders, provisions, technology, and security. Johnson also says he wants the vessel to incorporate cutting-edge green technologies and showcase best practices with regard to sustainability.

The new yacht is expected to have a service life of at least 30 years. Given that trillions of dollars’ worth of trade deals were reportedly secured aboard Britannia , the cost for that lifespan is not expected to be a concern.

Construction could start as early as next year, following consultations with the royal family, the Royal Navy and various government departments. The vessel will officially be the responsibility of the Ministry of Defense and classified as if it were a warship.

Royal yacht

Floating History

Now retired, royal yacht Britannia lies permanently in Edinburgh, Scotland. This vessel has been one of the Scottish capital’s most popular tourist draws for more than 25 years. It is open daily and sees more than 1,000 visitors a day. Guided tours take in all areas, including a view into the queen’s bedroom, private sitting rooms, state dining room and drawing rooms, sun lounge and veranda, bridge, crew decks, and engine room.

The First Royal Yacht

The wooden wheel aboard Britannia came from the only other royal yacht to bear the name, the much older 122-foot gaff-rigged cutter Britannia . Built for Prince Albert Edward, who later became King Edward VII, it was famously campaigned at big-boat

regattas by him and his son, King George V. The yacht launched in spring 1893 and was a near-sister to Valkyrie II , which unsuccessfully challenged the Nathanael Greene Herreshoff-built Vigilant for the America’s Cup that same year. Both Valkyrie II and Britannia

were designed by George Lennox Watson and built at the D&W Henderson Shipyard in Scotland. Following George V’s death and per his wishes, the vessel was stripped of its spars and fitting, and scuttled in deep water off England’s South Coast on July 10, 1936.

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Underwater image of orca next to a boat's rudder

Yacht sinks after latest incident involving orcas in strait of Gibraltar

Vessel measuring 15 metres in length sank after encounter with the animals, Spain’s maritime rescue service reports

An unknown number of orcas have sunk a yacht after ramming it in Moroccan waters in the strait of Gibraltar, Spain’s maritime rescue service has said, in the latest in a series of similar incidents involving the animals.

The vessel, Alboran Cognac, which measured 15 metres (49ft) in length and carried two people, encountered the highly social apex predators, also known as killer whales, at 9am local time on Sunday.

The passengers reported feeling sudden blows to the hull and rudder before the boat started taking on water. After alerting the rescue services, a nearby oil tanker took them onboard and transported them to Gibraltar. The yacht was left adrift and eventually sank.

The incident is the latest example of recurring orca rammings around the Gibraltar strait that separates Europe from Africa and off the Atlantic coast of Portugal and north-western Spain. Experts believe them to involve a subpopulation of about 15 individuals given the designation “Gladis”.

According to the research group GT Atlantic Orca, which tracks populations of the Iberian orca sub-species, there have been nearly 700 interactions since orca attacks on ships in the region were first reported in May 2020.

Researchers are unsure about the causes for the behaviour, but theories include that it is a playful manifestation of the mammals’ curiosity, a social fad or the intentional targeting of what they perceive as competitors for their favourite prey, the local bluefin tuna.

Although known as killer whales, endangered orcas are part of the dolphin family. They can measure up to 8 metres in length and weigh up to 6 tonnes as adults.

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royal yachts of the world

The largest yachts owned by tech billionaires, from Mark Zuckerberg to Jeff Bezos

  • Megayachts have become a status symbol for the richest of the rich.
  • In recent years, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg have splurged on enormous boats.
  • These are the biggest yachts owned by tech billionaires.

Insider Today

The average Joe celebrating a personal renaissance after, say, the end of a long-term relationship or when approaching a fresh decade might commemorate it with an ankle tattoo or a sports car. But if you're a billionaire, you may instead spend hundreds of millions on a yacht .

A few years after he and his wife divorced, Jeff Bezos shelled out on a megayacht. Last year, Bezos debuted the 127-meter vessel "Koru," a Māori symbol that signifies a fresh start — perhaps referring to that with his fiancée Lauren Sanchez.

Earlier this year, just before his 40th birthday, Mark Zuckerberg became the rumored owner of a yacht originally built for a Russian oligarch.

Superyachts have increasingly become ultrawealthy status symbols , providing highly secluded leisure and networking sites. They are — even more so than real estate — the single most expensive asset you can own.

"It's a bit of a celebration of your success in life, of wealth," Giovanna Vitelli, the chair of the Azimut Benetti Group, the world's biggest producer of superyachts, told Business Insider.

While many tech billionaires have bought yachts, the richest of the rich, like Bezos, Zuckerberg, and Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison, have gone bigger. Their boats are virtual palaces at sea, decked with amenities like gyms, spas, pools, nightclubs, and movie theaters.

A look at these megayachts — broadly defined as over 70 meters long, mostly custom-built, and often costing nine figures — offers a glimpse into how the .00001% lives. It's something few others will ever get to experience. Even chartering a yacht of this size for a week typically costs upwards of $1 million.

One major thing that hundreds of millions of dollars can buy is privacy. There are likely yachts that have not been publicly recorded or registered — for example, Evan Spiegel is rumored to own the 94-meter megayacht Bliss. In an industry ruled by discretion , deciphering who owns what is typically an exercise in stringing together many clues.

Here are the largest yachts owned by tech billionaires, listed in order of length.

Jeff Bezos: Koru and Abeona

royal yachts of the world

Amazon founder Bezos' $500 million megayacht, the 127-meter Koru, made a splash last year as she crisscrossed the Mediterranean in her first summer at sea, with her 75-meter support vessel Abeona in tow.

The sailing yacht, which is hard to miss thanks to her massive size and unique design, was host to Bezos and his fiancée Lauren Sanchez's famous friends . The couple held an engagement party on board, which reportedly drew guests including Bill Gates, Ari Emanuel, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Just a week later, they were seen on the streets of Dubrovnik, Croatia, with Orlando Bloom, Katy Perry, and Usher.

Even before her completion, Koru made headlines. She drew the ire of some Dutch people, who vowed to hurl eggs after she was announced a historic bridge in Rotterdam might be taken apart to allow the Oceanco boat through. Luckily, the shipyard made alternative plans, and an egg crisis was averted.

Among yacht world insiders , Koru is widely praised for her craftsmanship.

"I heard back in 2018 or something that somebody had ordered a classic sailing yacht," one superyacht expert told BI. "You order 125 meters, that's not really going to be classic. But it is. I think it's pretty cool."

Mark Zuckerberg: Launchpad

royal yachts of the world

Earlier this year, the yacht world was rife with rumors that Zuckerberg purchased Launchpad, a 118-meter superyacht originally designed for a sanctioned Russian businessman.

The ship made her maiden voyage in March, going from Gibraltar to St. Maarten and mooring in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Little is known about her interior, but photos show a large swimming pool and helipad. Her price, too, has been kept under wraps but is said to be nine figures.

Eric Schmidt: Whisper

royal yachts of the world

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt made waves last year when he agreed to buy the Alfa Nero , the yacht of a sanctioned Russian oligarch, for $67 million in an auction conducted by Antigua and Barbuda. But he backed out of the deal following legal issues over her true owner. He quietly purchased Kismet instead. The 95-meter-long Lürssen-built boat was formerly owned by the Jacksonville Jaguar's billionaire owner Shahid Khan . Schmidt renamed her Whisper.

The ship can fit 12 guests and a crew of 28, according to Moran Yacht & Ship, which oversaw her construction. She features a master deck with a private jacuzzi, full-service spa, lap pool, movie theater, and outdoor fireplace.

While her final sale price was not public, she was listed for 149 million euros (about $161 million at current exchange rates), and at a charity auction in January, one week aboard the ship went for $2.4 million, according to industry outlet Yacht Charter Fleet.

Barry Diller: Eos

royal yachts of the world

Barry Diller , the chairman of digital media company IAC, co-owns the megayacht Eos with his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg , who is immortalized by a figurehead sculpture by Anh Duong.

One of the largest private sailing yachts in the world, the three-masted Lürssen schooner measures 93 meters long. She took three years to be built before being delivered to Diller in 2009, and since then, little has come to light about her interior and features.

The power couple has hosted many celebrities on the Eos, which spends her summers crisscrossing the Mediterranean and New Year ' s Eve in St. Barts . Over the years, guests have included Oprah Winfrey, Emma Thompson, Anderson Cooper, and Bezos, leading some to believe she provided inspiration for his Koru.

Jim Clark: Athena

royal yachts of the world

Netscape founder Jim Clark purchased the 90-meter sailing yacht Athena in 2004.

"I could easily have built a 50- or 60-meter motor yacht that would have had the same space as Athena, but I was never really interested in building a motor yacht," he told Boat International in 2016. "To my eye, she's one of the most gorgeous large sailing yachts, maybe the most gorgeous large sailing yacht in the world."

Athena has room for 10 guests and 21 crewmembers, and the only change Clark says he'd make in her design is adding more space for his kids.

"If I was forced to change something, I would convert the office on the lower deck into a children's room," he said.

The former Stanford professor tried to sell her at various points — listing her for $95 million in 2012 , $69 million in 2016, and $59 million in 2017 — but she has yet to change hands.

Larry Ellison: Musashi

royal yachts of the world

Oracle founder Larry Ellison has owned several superyachts over the years, including the Katana, the Ronin, and the Rising Sun — which he sold to fellow billionaire David Geffen .

He purchased his current boat, Musashi, in 2011 for a reported $160 million from custom-yacht giant Feadship.

Named after a famous samurai warrior, the 88-meter-long yacht has both Japanese and Art Deco-inspired design elements. She also boasts amenities including an elevator, swimming pool, beauty salon, gym, and basketball court.

Ellison is known for his extravagant spending — private islands, jets, a tennis tournament — and yachting is among his favorite and most expensive hobbies. He took up racing them in the 1990s and financed the America's Cup-winning BMW Oracle Racing team .

Laurene Powell Jobs: Venus

royal yachts of the world

Steve Jobs' wife, investor and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, inherited a nearly finished 78-meter yacht named Venus when the Apple cofounder died in 2011.

After spending years vacationing on Ellison's yachts, Jobs wanted one for himself. He designed Venus with French starchitect and decorator Philippe Starck , and she was worth $130 million at completion.

"Venus comes from the philosophy of minimum," Starck said of her design. "The elegance of the minimum, approaching dematerialization."

Jobs and Starck began working together in 2007, the designer told Vanity Fair , and held monthly meetings over four years. Venus was delivered in 2012 to Jobs' specification: six identical cabins, a design to ensure spaces of absolute silence, and the most up-to-date technology.

"There will never again be a boat of that quality again. Because never again will two madmen come together to accomplish such a task," Starck told the magazine. "It was not a yacht that Steve and I were constructing, we were embarked on a philosophical action, implemented according to a quasi-religious process. We formed a single brain with four lobes."

Charles Simonyi: Norn

royal yachts of the world

Early Microsoft employee Charles Simonyi has purchased two megayachts from the German shipyard Lürssen: the 90-meter Norn and 71-meter Skat.

Delivered in 2023, Norn is full of luxe features, including an outdoor cinema and a pool floor that lifts to become a light-up dancefloor. She shares a militaristic style with Skat , which Simonyi sold in 2021.

Skats's name is derived from the Danish word for treasure, and she had a listing price of 56.5 million euros and was launched in 2002.

"The yacht is to be home away from my home in Seattle, and its style should match the style of the house, adapted for the practicalities of the sea," Simonyi once said .

Sergey Brin: Dragonfly

royal yachts of the world

Google cofounder Sergey Brin has built a flotilla of yachts, boats, and toys known as the "Fly Fleet."

Named after a once-secret Google product , the largest of Brin's armada is the sleek Dragonfly , which boasts a movie theater and a helipad. The 73-meter-long vessel was built by the Australian shipyard Silver Yachts and can fit up to 18 guests and 16 crew members, according to SuperYacht Times.

Also in his fleet is the superyacht Butterfly, a mere 38 meters long. Often moored in the Bay Area, her crewmembers spend their downtime kitesurfing and giving swimming lessons to local kids.

The rest of his marine lineup includes a smaller boat called Firefly, as well as Jet Skis, foilboards, dinghies, and kiteboards. She takes a team of 50 full-time employees to manage, steer, and maintain the entire operation.

Sindhu Sundar contributed to an earlier version of this story.

Correction: May 6, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misstated Giovanna Vitelli's title. She is the chair of the Azimut Benetti Group, not a vice president.

royal yachts of the world

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