• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7489

    Important Maritime Art

    31 October 2007, London, King Street

  • Lot 121

    Richard M. Firth (b.1971)

    Britannia and Yankee racing at full pelt off the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes, 1935

    Price Realised  


    Richard M. Firth (b.1971)
    Britannia and Yankee racing at full pelt off the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes, 1935
    signed 'Richard M Firth' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    30 x 50 in. (76.2 x 127 cm.)

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    Britannia, built for King Edward VII when Prince of Wales in 1893, was undoubtedly the most famous racing cutter of them all. Hugely successful during her long life, she won 33 firsts out of 39 starts in her maiden season and competed against all the fastest yachts of the day. Sold in 1897 - although bought back for cruising in 1901 by which time the Prince of Wales had succeeded to the throne - her second racing career really came into its own when King George V had her refitted for big class competitions in 1921. Under the King's enthusiastic ownership, Britannia went from success to success. Despite being re-rigged seven times in all, her hull shape was so efficient that she remained competitive almost to the end and was only finally outclassed by the big J-class boats introduced in the mid-1930's. King George V died in 1936 and under the terms of his will, Britannia was stripped of her salvageable gear and scuttled off the southern tip of the Isle of Wight.

    Yankee was built for Gerard B. Lambert of Boston by G. Lawley at Neponset, Massachusetts, in 1930. Designed by Paine, Belknap & Skene, she was classed as a sloop but was extensively refitted to comply with the prevailing J-class rules when her owner accepted an invitation to race her at Cowes in the 1935 season. As it was King George V's Silver Jubilee that year, Cowes attracted an even greater throng than usual of notable yachts and there were many memorable races, not least the spectacle above, to reward the spectators.

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