Official number Date Builder Tonnage L B D Fate
70573 1874 Bowdler, Chaffer & Co Seacombe, UK 227.19 159.0 27.6 13.9 Broken up 1930

Sunbeam was built for Thomas Brassey by Bowdler & Chaffer of Seacombe, from a design by St Clare Byrne. She was a three-masted topsail schooner, iron framed and with teak skin. Length 159 ft, beam 27.5 ft, weight 532 tons. The sail area was 9,000 square yards. The yacht had an auxiliary compound steam engine of 70 hp that developed a top speed of just over 10 knots. The bunkers could hold eighty tons of coal and although primarily a sailing vessel, she could steam for approximately 20 days without refueling. When not in steam, the funnel would be lowered and the propeller feathered to reduce drag. Unlike many of the luxury yachts of the time, Sunbeam had been designed for long distance and deep sea journeys. The accommodation for the owners and their guests, however, was far from Spartan, with rooms fashioned in a typical Victorian drawing-room style.

The name Sunbeam came from the nickname they had given to their daughter - Constantine Alberta Brassey - who had died in 1873 from scarlet fever.

In 1895 Thomas Brassey (now Earl Brassey) was appointed Governor of Victoria in Australia. Brassey, who had a yacht master’s certificate, skippered Sunbeam via Cape Horn to Melbourne. Whilst in Australia, Sunbeam visited Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Tasmania and in 1896-97 New Zealand. When Brassey’s term of office concluded in 1900, he sailed Sunbeam back to Britain - again via the Cape.

At the start of WW1, Sunbeam was used for Red Cross work between Britain and France, before being converted to a hospital ship in 1915. Brassey sailed her to Mudros Bay to support the troops fighting in the Dardanelles, but it soon became obvious that she was of limited value. Brassey agreed to hand Sunbeam over to the Indian Government for the remainder of the war.

At the time of the handover he estimated that Sunbeam had traveled 500,000 miles since she had been launched.

Brassey died in 1918 and Sunbeam passed to Henry Leonard Brassey before becoming a training ship in 1920. She was never used in this role and was sold to Sir Walter Runciman in 1922. He eventually sold her to Thomas Ward Ltd of Morecambe to be broken up, but not before he had commissioned a replacement yacht called Sunbeam II.


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