The Cutty Sark is the most famous (and fastest) of the old tea clippers ever built. She is the only ship of its type to survive to this day. She was built and launched in Dumbarton, Scotland on the River Leven in 1869. The ship’s owner, Jock Willis, wanted the best and the fastest and he was not to be disappointed. He named her ” Cutty Sark ” which is an expression taken from a Robbie Burn’s poem Tam O’Shanter.
The poem tells of a farmer chased by witches, including a young and beautiful witch by the name of Nannie dressed only in a ” cutty sark ” – Gaelic for short night dress. The character of Nannie is depicted in the ship’s figurehead.
With a main mast of over 150 feet and a top speed of 17 knots plus, she was the fasted ship afloat at the time. However, luck would have it that in the very same year as her launch, the Suez Canal was opened reducing the travel time to the Orient significantly. Sailing ships such as Cutty Sark could not navigate the Canal, whereas steam ships could.
And so she made her name and set new speed records, in the wool trade with Australia, bringing the new season’s clip from Sydney to London between 1885 and 1895.
In 1895 she was sold to Portugese interests, but was finally repatriated to a British owner in 1922. Cutty Sark served as a training ship and was eventually towed to Greenwich after W.W. II. She was restored and opened to the public in 1957.
Fire broke out onboard the ship in May of 2007. Fortunately, much of the ship was saved and a massive restoration project was put in place, in part financed by a sizeable donation from Sammy Ofer, who had once served in the Royal Navy during W.W. II.
The Cutty Sark reopened to the public, fully restored, in May of 2012. And Greenwich Royal Tours is here to help visitors enjoy this beautiful sailing ship. The Cutty Sark, upon its reopening, was incorporated into both our full day ” Best of Greenwich ” tour as well as our half day ” Greenwich Highlights ” tour.
Visitor Advice: If you are planning on visiting London and in particular Greenwich you are advised to prebook well in advance on one of our tours as it is predicted that tour seats will be at a premium and possibly sold out.
For more information on the Cutty Sark click here.