Title: “Britannia Neck & Neck with Vigilant off Cowes, 1894”
Framed Size: Height 33 3/4 inches Width 47 3/4 inches
Master of marine painting, Stephen Renard was born at Huddersfield, England in 1947, and graduated from the Liverpool University with a degree in the natural sciences. He spent three years at training college and while head of Biology in a Liverpool school, he developed a passionate interest in sailing. Abandoning teaching, Renard began to make a living as a portrait artist, taking lessons in ink drawing and becoming a freelance illustrator. Renard purchased a boat in 1981 and taught himself to sail, painting ships as a hobby. Since then, he has concentrated on yachting subjects, following in the footsteps of Steven Dews.
In addition, he was asked to work for the Royal Thames Yacht Club. For his first commission, he produced a painting of the Spithead review, honouring the birthday of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
This superbly detailed example of Stephen Renard’s work depicts Britannia neck and neck with Vigilant and Satanita following off Cowes in 1894 with the Royal Yacht Squadron in the distance and the Esplanade crowded with spectators and artisans. In 1935 when Gerard Lambert brought Yankee to England to race for a season, he and his entourage were astonished by how close to the shore the big yachts were racing and by the large number of spectators able to see a lot of the action from the land. This has always been the case in the Solent and here in 1894 before the Pier was built to the left of this view of Cowes, the yachts could race a cable length from the crowds from Egypt Point to the west of the Royal Yacht Squadron down as far as the mouth of the Medina River to the east. The racing between Vigilant and Britannia was keen, the Royal Yacht winning about two to one. However, it has to be remembered that Vigilant was in unfamiliar, very tidal waters and for a long time was unable to use her centreboard which was damaged in a grounding early on in the series. Overall, the yachts were very closely matched and the competition followed with great interest, yet it was to be another forty-one years before another yacht of America's Cup quality –Yankee -- sailed to the UK for another round of Anglo-American match races. A little outclassed, but still in contention, Britannia was still sailing amongst the fleet in 1935 having established an unmatched racing record going back to 1893.