Ainscough Crane Hire, the UK’s leading lifting solutions company, has successfully helped to remove the mast of the iconic vessel HMS Victory, as part of essential conservation work being carried out on the ship.
HMS Victory is a 104‐gun first‐rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She was built in 1758 and is best known for her role as Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805.
In 1922, she was moved to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and preserved as a museum ship. She is the world’s oldest naval ship still in commission, with 243 years’ service as of 2021. Conservation work has been ongoing on the ship for the past decade.
In early May, Ainscough was hired by the National Museum of the Royal Navy to remove the ship’s main lower mast for the first time since 1894 when the ship’s three original, rotted masts were replaced with wrought‐iron masts from the decommissioned HMS Shah.
As part of the planning process, the project team had to carry out an ultrasonic thickness test and structural analysis before beginning work, to ensure that not even the smallest mark was made on the historic vessel.
Over a period of three days, Ainscough’s seven-person team worked to remove the mast. Crane Operators, Kevan Vale and Matt Nixon; Patrick Denby as Appointed Person/Supervisor; Slingers, Warren Maxwell, Josh Waldron, Ross Turner, Andrew Bowring (apprentice).
Two cranes, a Liebherr LTM 1500‐8.1 and an LTM Liebherr 1200‐5.1 were used to lift the 32 metre‐ long mast from its position at the anchor point in the orlop deck, at a height of 42 metres, and manoeuvre it slowly through the ship’s four decks working at a radius of 32 metres.
Due to a lack of historical data on the exact weight of the mast, the team decided on a planned lift weight of 32 tonnes to ensure that the estimated weight of the mast (26 tonnes) was well covered with a 20% added factor of safety. 16 steel mats and 28 timber mats were used to assist with load-bearing for the two cranes.
Following the work, the ship has officially re‐opened to the public. A new £1.2 million exhibition has also opened at the dockyard where visitors will be able to view previously unseen objects from the ship including a section of its mainmast, which was damaged at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Patrick Denby, contract lift manager at Ainscough Heavy Cranes, said: “We are really pleased to have been able to support the National Museum of the Royal Navy in their conservation effort of the historic HMS Victory. The ship’s original masts were made in Portsmouth and she is a source of pride for the region’s local community.
“Thanks to the brilliant skills of our project team members, and their experience in working on preservation sites, the masts were successfully removed without any disruption to the ship or its surrounding environment, and its visitors can once again enjoy a wonderful day out at this iconic attraction.”