The Cutty Sark was built in 1869 at Dumbarton in Scotland, by the firm of Scott & Linton, for Captain John ‘Jock’ ‘White Hat’ 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. In the most famous race, against Thermopylae in 1872, both ships left Shanghai together on June 18, but two weeks later 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, yet was only beaten by one week. The Cutty Sark was then used in the Australian wool trade. Under the command of the respected Captain Richard Woodget, she did very well, posting Australia-to-England times of as little as 67 days. She was said to have been the fastest of any ship of her size. She is now in dry-dock at Greenwich.
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