Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fastest Ship in the Tea Trade Named after a Fleet-Footed Witch

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fastest Ship in the Tea Trade Named after a Fleet-Footed Witch

Article excerpt


until today the worlds last surviving tea clipper

was one of the fastest vessels in her heyday.

In the trade, speed was all. Getting the first of the seasons tea from China to London was worth great profits for a clippers owner and the Cutty Sark was built to win that race.

Designed by Hercules Linton, the Cutty Sark was built in 1869 in Dumbarton, Scotland, by Scott & Linton for Captain Jock White Hat Willis and launched in November that year.

She was named after a fleet-footed witch in Scottish poet Robert Burns Tam OShanter. In 1872, three years after her launch, she got her chance to prove her speed when she was pitted against the Thermopylae in the annual race back from China.

She left Woosung on 17 June and by 7 August was 400 miles ahead of her rival.

But her rudder broke, and after twice being repaired in heavy seas, she limped home on 19 October a week behind the Thermopylae.

Her captain, George Moodie, retired from his command due to stress, and the Cutty Sark would never come that close to winning the race again.

Indeed, she spent more of her life in dry dock than she did as a tea clipper.

She made eight tea voyages to China, but in the end clippers gaveway to steamships, which were narrower and could pass through the new Suez Canal. They might not have been quite so fast, but they were more reliable.

The Cutty Sarks speed was still invaluable, however, and after taking various cargoes round the world

coal from Japan to China, jute from Manila to New York she entered her most successful phase, workingfor the Australian wool trade.

Despite being halfway through her 30-year working life, she turned in some impressive voyage times, sailing between London and Sydney in as little as 67 days.

Known as the fastest vessel in the business, in 1889 the Cutty Sark made 17 knots to overtake P& O steamship the Britannia. …

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