• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7660

    Maritime Art

    29 October 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 85

    Richard M. Firth (b.1971)

    Britannia and Westward racing off Cowes

    Price Realised  


    Richard M. Firth (b.1971)
    Britannia and Westward racing off Cowes
    signed 'Richard M Firth' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    14 x 21 in. (35.5 x 53.4 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.

    Westward, 323 tons and built by the great Nat Herreshoff at Rhode Island in 1910, was one of the largest racing schooners whose career fell into two distinct phases. Like King George V's legendary Britannia, she too had royal connections having been originally purchased - at the Kaiser's instigation - by a syndicate of German businessmen who renamed her Hamburg. In a brilliant start she won all eleven races in her first season and then enjoyed many other successes in the years preceding the Great War. Sold out of German ownership after the Armistice, her new American owner Clarence Hatry restored her original name and his first season in 1920 almost equalled the triumphs of 1910. It was after her sale to T.B.F. Davis in 1924 however, that she finally came into her own when she became a regular challenger to Britannia. Over the years Davis and the King developed a spirited though friendly rivalry and Westward became such a prized possession of Davis that he, like King George before him, stipulated that his boat also was to be sunk after his death.

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