THE maiden voyage to Wirral of the biggest ever replica of a Viking longship has been delayed until 2014.
The 114ft Draken Harald Hårfagre – Dragon Harald Fairhair in English – was due to set sail for the UK next summer.
The voyage would have followed the path of the Vikings from Scandinavia via the British Isles to Istanbul – with Wirral one of the first stops.
But although construction of the vessel was completed in June its design team say it needs more testing before it can embark upon a long journey on open seas.
More than 100 people have already volunteered to help row the boat into harbour when it arrives in Wirral and have been training at Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club in Wallasey.
Professor Stephen Harding, of Nottingham University, the north west England representative for the project, broke the news in a letter to the volunteers and apologised for the delay.
He wrote: “The team have not had the chance to properly finish the testing before the wintering of the ship and most importantly to experience open sea conditions and very strong winds.
“They have also learnt that several changes will be required to the ship’s rigging and steering oar before they sail again next year and these changes will also have to be tested.
“In short the testing has taken longer than they anticipated.”
The project team, based in Haugesund, Norway, have decided the Darken will stay within Scandinavian waters during the 2013 sailing season for further testing before setting sail for the UK in 2014.
Negotiations are now under way for the Wirral rowers to visit Haugesund next May to practice rowing alongside the Norwegian crew.
When the boat does arrive in Wirral the volunteers will row it into the West Float in Wallasey, across the River Mersey to the Albert Dock in Liverpool and out of the estuary again.
Organisers picked Wirral as a stop because of the borough’s Viking links including a genetic survey which showed a Norwegian influence in the DNA of the borough’s oldest families.