The replica of the Nao Victoria

Once the ship’s characteristics were defined, we decided to build a replica on the occasion of the EXPO’92, the World Fair that was held in Seville in 1992. The construction was led by the author of her historic study and designer, Ignacio Fernández Vial. The Victoria’s keel was laid in the coastal village of Isla Cristina, in Huelva, in the month of March 1991. Eight months later, the ship was ready for launching.

The oak used for all structural pieces -keel, stern post, stem, frames, beams, timbers, stringers, waterways, etc.- was cut down in the woods near the Miño river in Galicia. After being carefully selected for each purpose, the trees were felled during the months of December, January, and February, the best time for harvesting timber for shipbuilding. Later, the bark was removed and the trunks were laid to dry for several months.

The wood used to make the masts was cut in the Balsaín pine forest of Segovia. These coniferous trees possess the ideal characteristics for the construction of masts: they have very few branches and their wood is straight, very flexible and all rounds virtually without defects.

For the tackle, pulleys and other elements of the rigging, we used some excellent pieces of holm oak and olive wood we were able to find in a sawmill near the Cazorla Mountains.

Unable to find esparto cloth, we recurred to linen, which was still difficult to find, since few weavers make that kind of fabric nowadays. Finally we found a factory that agreed to make a very similar cloth to the one that was used for the sails of 16th and 17th C. ships.

We were able to locate a rope-making firm in San Fernando (Cadiz) that provided the hemp fiber ropes we needed for the standing and running rigging. We specified the thicknesses of the strands, the number of threads per strand, the number of strands per rope, etc., basing our orders on shipbuilding treaties from the time of Magellan and Elcano.

Most of the nails and spikes had to be custom made for the Victoria, since they are no longer in use. The ironwork was done at a foundry in Seville, both the casting of the anchors and the forging of the rudder brace and the chain-plate mounts.

When the construction was completed, the Nao Victoria remained on show for the six months of the World Exhibition of Seville 1992, next to the replicas of the Nao Santa Maria and the caravels Niña and Pinta, the three ships of Christopher Columbus’ fleet on his historic voyage of discovery. More than three million people visited these historical ships during the Seville celebrations. When the EXPO’92 closed, the Victoria was installed on land to allow visitors to admire her bottoms, and it became a star exhibit at the Seville Sailing Pavilion.

In the year 2003 we presented a project for circumnavigating the globe aboard the Nao Victoria to the AGESA (State Society for the Management of Assets) and the SEEI (State Society for International Exhibitions); a project that was designed to commemorate the impressive story of Spanish maritime explorers and the first voyage around the world in particular, which was completed by Juan Sebastián de Elcano. Both institutions enthusiastically supported the idea, and work began immediately to refit the ship and prepare it for the new round-the-world voyage. So this replica of the Nao Victoria between 2004 and 2006 managed to give the round-the-world trip, voyage never realized before by a ship of these characteristics.