On the 140th anniversary of the Cutty Sark’s maiden voyage, and for the first time on television, Ben Fogle presents the full story of this world-famous ship and the dramatic bid to save her. Many believed the infamous fire of May 2007 spelled doom for the Cutty Sark, but using exclusive access, this programme explains the true context and consequence of that disaster.
Her story begins in 1869, launched from a Dumbarton slipway and bound for the lucrative Chinese tea trade. It was the age of the famous ‘tea races’, in which the clippers (merchant ships built almost purely for speed) competed to be first back to London with the new tea crop. The clippers were the fastest commercial sailing ships ever built, and the Cutty Sark was the fastest and most famous of them all. Her speed and grace made her a legend in her own time.
In her long life she has faced the scrapyard many times. But thanks to good fortune and the hard work of her admirers, today she is the last tea clipper to survive. For fifty years she has stood in dry dock in Greenwich, where she has become a top tourist attraction and famous London landmark. She is, not least, a unique link to Britain’s proud maritime past.
In 2006, having outlived her life expectancy by more than a hundred years, the future of the Cutty Sark was uncertain. Old age and decay were slowly pulling her apart. In response, the Cutty Sark Trust, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, launched an ambitious conservation project.
HISTORY filmcrews have had exclusive documentary access to this project from day one, and have covered every major development. From its early stages, to the dramatic fire of 2007 and beyond, we follow the Cutty Sark Trust’s bid to preserve this unique ship for future generations. We also tell the dramatic story of her working life - a tale that includes record-breaking voyages to the far side of the world, mutinies, suicide, and murder.
Find out how you can help save the Cutty Sark by visiting the Cutty Sark Trust website here