Restoration Project Starts On HMS Victory

Engineers have removed the yard arms from Nelson's flagship HMS Victory as the first steps of major restoration work get underway.

The fore topgallant yard and fore topsail yards - the spars on the mast - were removed from the ship which is based at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Bell Rigging, sub-contractors for BAE Systems, oversaw the work as a crane made the first major removals.

The ship's three masts, bowsprit and rigging will all be dismantled in the coming weeks which will be the first time since 1944 that Victory, the world's oldest commissioned warship, has been seen without its top masts.

Lieutenant Commander DJ ''Oscar'' Whild, Victory's commanding officer, said:

''I am really pleased with the work undertaken this morning (July 12th).

''The fore topgallant and fore topsail yards were taken down this morning, safely and without a hitch, with the rigging team, under the direction of Ian Bell and BAE Systems, doing a fantastic job in difficult conditions.

''We estimate that, in addition to the two foremast yards removed this morning, approximately six to seven miles of associated standing and running rigging has also been removed.

''For HMS Victory, there is a requirement for constant maintenance to keep her in good condition. This morning's work is just part of that process.

''HMS Victory remains open to the public and, although there will inevitably be some disruption onboard, I urge visitors to come and see the ship whilst this work is under way.''

Professor Dominic Tweddle, the National Museum of the Royal Navy's director general, said:

''HMS Victory is a national icon. It is both a relief to see the next stage in her restoration begin, but also a real challenge.

''We are determined that Victory will be open to the public throughout so that they can share in the excitement and even thrills of the restoration story.''

Most of the highly skilled operation will be carried out by master shipwrights and other specialist staff employed by BAE Systems who, while operating on the cutting edge of technology on modern warships, maintain age-old wooden shipbuilding skills.

John O Sullivan, BAE Systems project manager for HMS Victory, said:

''We will remove the upper sections of all three masts and bowsprit, booms, yards and spars, including 26 miles of associated rigging and 768 wooden blocks, some of which are 100 years old.

''We will then catalogue and document everything for future surveying, design and replacement.

''When the rigging is replaced a decision will be made as to whether the wooden rope blocks can be re-used, recycled or replaced. Our team will carefully manage this major restoration project, keeping disruption to a minimum.''

HMS Victory mast