The Fastest Ship on the World – Cutty Sark


The Fastest Ship in the World – Cutty Sark Original Oil on Stretched Canvas 66cm x 51cm

“Cutty Sark” is a British Tea Clipper launched in 1869 at Dumbarton in Scotland . It is composite built 963 tons gross. In the 1880’s she was put on the Australian run as a wool clipper. She is now a museum ship at Greenwich int the United Kingdom.

The Cutty Sark became a symbol of the China Tea Races in the late 1800s: built for strength and speed she was one of the most impressive ships of her day. The Cutty Sark was a Victorian-era Tea Clipper, and over the course of her seafaring career she successfully navigated eight return voyages from London to China with a cargo of tea.  She was built in Dumbarton, on the banks of the Clyde in Scotland by Willis and Sons ship owners, but she was designed by Hercules Linton. This provenance perhaps explains her name ‘Cutty Sark’ which means ‘short skirt’ in Scots.  She was a fast ship, although she never achieved that great accolade when she was racing tea back from China; it was much later, in her teenage years, that she became the fastest ship on the seas. The closest she came to being the fastest as a tea-clipper was in June 1872, when she was beaten by a week by the tea-clipper Thermopylae.  Alas for The Cutty Sark, her tea racing days were over in 1877, after eight successful round trips to China. That year she sailed her last cargo of tea back to London, and on her return to Shanghai in 1878 there was no more tea for the famous clipper. Steamships had taken over the tea trade and clippers were no longer the masters of the ocean. In fact, her Captain, by the name of Tiptaft, ended his life in Shanghai unable to secure the final tea cargo for the vessel. Instead, she traded in many different goods; coal, jute, oil and even mail, all over the world.  In July 1883 she picked up a cargo of wool in Newcastle, New South Wales and then raced it back to London in a stunning 83 days! This was an amazing 25 days faster than any other ship at the time. It did not end there though: under the captaincy of Richard Woodget she dominated the oceans. A risk-taker and shrewd businessman, Widget pushed the ship harder and faster than anyone before or after. She sailed from England to Sydney with a full cargo in an astonishing 77 days, although she faced greater dangers sailing through worse weather than her cannier, slower counterparts. It was at this point she became the fastest ship on the seas.

Born in South Australia in 1948, Ian’s childhood years were spent on the shores of Hervey Bay. It was here that his deep love of the sea and ships began. By the age of eight, he was actively painting with watercolour, moving to oils when he was eleven. His first oil work still hangs in his studio in Hunters Hill. Joining the Navy at fifteen, Ian served for twelve years continually painting the ships and scenes he observes on his travels. On leaving the navy Ian decided to paint full time and eventually settled in Sydney.  Married and with three children, Ian lives in Hunters Hill in a heritage house built in 1906 as a Doctors residence. Ian paints in his Studio gallery converted from the original stables. He enjoys taking to sea on his yacht “Karalee ” and has completed many ocean races. Sailing is still an important part of his life and it is from these trips that he draws his inspiration and great understanding of the sea.

In 2000 the Royal Australian Navy invited Ian to East Timor. He spent time on several of the ships painting scenes of the Navy’s involvement during the crisis. Ian is acknowledged throughout the world for his exacting historical correctness in his paintings and spends many hours researching ships and their places in history as well as significant occasions in history where ships of the line are involved. Ian has won many awards with the first in 1961 and still continues to win awards today.

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