Fenton Holloway are the structural engineers behind the conception of the new support structure for HMS Victory. The high-tech support system uses ‘smart’ props with load cells to control, adjust and monitor the exact amount of force being applied to the ship, supporting the historic hull in a ‘sympathetic’ way while providing early warnings of structural faults and allowing public access beneath the ship.
As engineers with particular expertise in historic ships, we have been working on the conservation of HMS Victory for almost a decade with the NMRN and BAE Systems. We were initially appointed to carry out a structural analysis of the ship, in order to assess its strength and stability and provide guidance on repairs. We constructed a digital ‘solid’ model of the ship, originated from laser scanning, and collected data from repair records, shipwrights’ surveys and movement logs. From this we developed the analytical model; a major exercise resulting in a very large ‘wireframe’ simulating the assembly and condition of all the elements in the ship. In parallel, an ‘intelligent model’ was built to provide a readily accessible database with dimensional and location information for all (28,000) structural elements in the ship, with the facility for the addition of other data such as materials, repairs, etc.
The results of the analysis indicated the necessity to provide a more adequate support system to the hull, which should try to better mimic the condition of the ship afloat. The existing cradle supports were causing excessive deflections and creating long-term problems for the structure. Our engineers studied different support configurations, along with potential prop layouts and installation sequences. The proposed propping solution has now been successfully installed and will contribute to the long-term preservation of HMS Victory.