|Kingdom of Great Britain|
|Owner||Sir Richard Hotham|
|Operator||East India Company|
|Launched||28 September 1772|
|Fate||Wrecked on 17 December 1773|
|Class and type||East Indiaman|
|Tons burthen||499,[Note 1] or 863 or 864, (bm)|
|Length||143 ft (43.6 m)|
|Beam||36 ft (11.0 m)|
|Sail plan||Full-rigged ship|
The Royal Captain's first and only voyage took her to China via St Helena. Captain Edward Berrow (or Barrow) sailed from Portsmouth on 30 January 1773.[Note 2] Royal Captain reached St Helena on 11 April and arrived at Whampoa in the Pearl river region of China, on 23 August. She crossed the Second Bar on 28 November on her way home.
On 17 December 1773, at 2:30 in the morning, Royal Captain struck an uncharted reef in the South China Sea. The place where she struck is now known as Royal Captain Shoal and is some 46 miles (76 kilometers) from Palawan in the South China Sea.
When she struck, in addition to her captain, Royal Captain was carrying six passengers and 99 crew members. Her cargo consisted of 100,000 pieces of Chinese porcelain, as well as tea, silk, glass beads, and gold.
Even though the crew managed to free the ship twice, a third collision with the reef sealed her fate and she sank with the bulk of her cargo. All but three crewmen survived the sinking; the three sailors who drowned were apparently drunk and refused to take to the lifeboats.
Lloyd's List reported that when the accident occurred Royal Captain was three days out of China and on her way to Balambangan Island on the northern tip of Sabah where, between 1761 and 1805, the East India Company maintained a free port. This report stated that the goods were saved, but it did note that three crew members drowned.
In 1999, an expedition led by Franck Goddio located the wreck in a depth of about 350 meters and salvaged part of the remaining stage freight. Goddio utilised the Ocean Voyager as well as two high-tech 2-person submarines of the Deep Rover class, capable of diving 1000 metres.