US Navy christens ship with $8 fizz – for the splash

The launch of the US Navy’s latest warship, USS Billings, also revealed that ship builders have conducted various tests on which bottles of wine break most reliably for christenings.

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

On 1 July, Sharla Tester, wife of Senator Jon Tester of Montana (Billings is named after a city in the landlocked state), launched the 3,900 ton Freedom-class ship at a shipyard in Wisconsin, christening the US$300 million craft with an $8 bottle of Barefoot Moscato.

It is well known that ships are ‘christened’ at their launch usually with a bottle of wine, Champagne being a popular choice.

Naval tradition or perhaps superstition has it that if the bottle does not break on the first go then it is an augur of bad luck.

As reported by the Wine Spectator, Tester even practiced her swing at home to make sure she struck true but she was helped along by the choice of wine now used for such occasions.

According to defence contractors Lockheed Martin, which build a variety of ships and planes for the US and other armed forces, tests have been conducted find the bottle that not only breaks most reliably in various, in fact extreme, temperatures but also makes the most impressive, foamy splash.

A spokesman told the US journal: “We settled on using the Barefoot sparkling wine after doing a study using various Champagne brands and bottle types. In the end, we chose the one that broke most consistently when scored.

“For whatever reason, the Barefoot bottle breaks in all climates from 10° below to 100° F and always produces a consistent splash for photography/videography.”

Lightweighting is all the drinks business can offer as an explanation there.

A good soaking in booze can do a ship the world of good and perhaps the best example is the USS Constitution.

Launched in Boston in 1797, as she slid into the Sound her captain, James Sever, broke a bottle of Madeira over her bowsprit.

‘Old Ironsides’ as she is known is now over 200 years old and, although retired from service in 1881, she is still registered as an active ship in the US fleet.

There has been a rare spate of warship and wine/whisky stories in the news recently owing to the discovery of a small bottle of whisky that was stashed aboard HMAS Sydney for 35 years, along with a silver dollar.

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