The latest on the Britannia ownership saga. David Glenn reports 8/9/06

The ongoing saga of the attempt to launch the Russian-built replica of the 1893 royal cutter Britannia, currently stranded in her building shed in Archangel’sk on the White Sea coast, will take another turn on Monday (11 September) when the local police take custody of the yacht with the intention of delivering her to her rightful owner.

Norwegian Sigurd Coates has spent 12 years building the yacht in Russia only to become embroiled in a dispute with the shipyard’s new Russian owner who is demanding a reported $US4.2 million before the vessel is launched (see Yachting World, November, published 14 September).

But now it seems the police have come down on the side of Coates who all along has claimed his right of ownership as he and the Solombala yard had signed an agreed contract to build the yacht for a certain price. According to Coates the new owner is demanding the difference between the contractual build price and the current market value of the yacht before releasing her.

But on Monday the yacht will be taken into custody so that when the cranes arrive at the end of September to launch Britannia armed police will be in attendance to make sure the shipyard owner doesn’t try to prevent the launch.

“What made them take this step was a result of going through all the documents with our lawyer,” Sigurd Coates told Yachting World. “The police decided that enough was enough,” he added.

Esben Glad, Britannia’s skipper who has been working with Sigurd Coates to get the yacht in the water, told Yachting World that even if the dispute over the contract is settled they were still short of a crane big enough to lift the yacht into the water.

The 120ft wood cutter will need two floating cranes to lift her off the hard standing but one is being repaired. “We are looking at late September, early October and in my experience the weather by that time could be not so good,” he said. The race would then be on to get Britannia from the White Sea to Moss in Norway for final fitting out before icing or inclement weather prevents such a passage. If she remains in Russia for another winter the chances are the legal wranglings might continue.

But if she gets out there’s a real prospect of her sailing with Lulworth, Candida and Eleonora next summer in the Mediterranean. “We’re in touch with the people at Lulworth and we have booked a berth in her same home port in Italy,” said Sigurd Coates.