Sunday, April 30, 2006

Here she is, the one and only Cutty Sark - legendary cutter of mid 1800's. Here's an extract from Wikipedia:

The ship is named after the short shirt worn by the fleet-footed witch featured in the poem Tam o' Shanter written by Robert Burns. She was designed by Hercules Linton and built in 1869 at Dumbarton in Scotland, by the firm of Scott & Linton, for Captain John Willis, and launched November 23 of that year.

The Cutty Sark was destined for the China tea trade, at that time an intensely competitive race across the globe from China to London, with immense profits to the ship to arrive with the first tea of the year. However she did not distinguish herself in this trade; in the most famous race, against Thermopylae in 1872, they left Shanghai together on June 18, but after two weeks Cutty Sark lost her rudder after passing through the Sunda Strait, and arrived in London on October 18, a week after Thermopylae, for a total passage of 122 days. Her legendary reputation is supported by the fact that her captain chose to continue this race with an improvised rudder instead of putting into port for a replacement and still managed to be beaten by only one week.

In the end, clippers lost out to the steamships, which could pass through the recently-opened Suez Canal and deliver reliably, if not quite so quickly, which as it turned out was better for business. The Cutty Sark was then used in the Australian wool trade, and did very well, posting Australia-to-England times of as little as 67 days. Her best run, of 360 nautical miles in 24 hours, was said to have been the fastest of any ship of her size.


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