Successful completion of the most authentic restoration ever 9/5/06
The world’s largest gaff-rigged superyacht is back in the water after an absence of 70 years. Restored in a five-year project costing an estimated ?15 million, the 46.50m (152ft 6in) Lulworth was re-launched in La Spezia, Italy.
Built in England in 1920, Lulworth was one of the most successful Big Class cutters ever. Now, with over half of her original structure and 80 per cent of her original interior intact, she has been hailed as the restoration of the century. A brand-new website detailing the entire project will be launched at the end of May on www.sylulworth.com.
Due to her depth, Lulworth could not be launched in Viareggio and had to be transported to La Spezia by raft. This potentially hazardous operation first involved lifting the 180-ton yacht onto a low loader for transportation to Viareggio harbour. Eight hydraulic jacks and scores of men from the Classic Yacht Darsena yard gingerly raised Lulworth and a custom-made 12-ton cradle measuring 16 x 5m. Once in place, police closed the narrow streets of Viareggio to allow Lulworth access to the port.
The spectators were next treated to the sight of Lulworth being reversed onto a giant 43 x 18m raft. Water was pumped in and out of this hollow pontoon to keep Lulworth and her cradle at a constant angle. Once secured, the 52m main mast – the largest wooden spar in the world – was successfully craned and onboard to tower above Lulworth’s superlative teak deck. With the 9.50m bowsprit and preliminary rigging in place, the pontoon and yacht were towed to La Spezia.
The launch took place at the Arsenale Militare Marittimo, making Lulworth the first foreign-flagged vessel to enter this top-secret stretch of Italian coastline since 1850. As she entered this high-security naval complex, the crews of the submarines and battleships downed tools in awe. Lulworth was placed in a huge dry dock, which measures 200 x 50m and has a depth of 18m.
The dock was drained and the pontoon filled with water to weight it to the floor. As 225,000m of water were pumped back into the basin over eight hours, divers released Lulworth from the blocks and cradle: It was the first time that the queen of cutters had floated unaided for seven decades.
Sea trials are currently being held off the Italian coastline as the crew learn to get the most out of Lulworth’s total sail area of 1450m. Early performance indicators are promising: In 18 knots of wind, Lulworth has already reached 15.5 knots (digitally recorded) while towing a 4.5m tender. After a VIP guest appearance at the Cannes Film Festival, Lulworth will make her racing debut at the Argentario Sailing Week in June. She will also take part in the Imperia, Cannes and St Tropez regattas.