• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1963

    Maritime Art Including Fine Paintings, Nautical Antiques, Scrimshaw And Ship Models

    30 January 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 340

    Michael J. Whitehand (British B. 1941)

    Cutty Sark and Ariel racing home

    Price Realised  

    Michael J. Whitehand (British B. 1941)
    Cutty Sark and Ariel racing home
    signed 'M J Whitehand' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm.)


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    Built in 1869, by which date the sailing ships' monopoly of the China tea trade was almost at an end, Cutty Sark not only made her name as one of the fastest commercial sailing vessels of all time, but has also achieved further immortality now that she is the sole surviving example of her breed. Ordered by J. Willis & Son of London from the unknown Dumbarton yard of Scott & Linton which went bankrupt before Cutty Sark was completed, she was actually finished off by Denny Bros. who had her ready for launching on 23rd November 1869. Registered at 963 tons gross (921 net), she measured 212 feet in length with a 36 foot beam and was constructed from only the finest materials. At her best in strong beam and quartering winds when none of the other clippers could catch her, she frequently made 15 or 16 knots and even managed 17 on one celebrated occasion. Although she broke no records for her passage times, she nevertheless performed consistently well on the China run until, ousted by steam, she was put into the Australian wool trade in 1883. It was on this route that she really made her reputation for speed and turned in many remarkable runs prior to 1895 when she was sold to Portuguese owners who re-rigged her as a barquentine. Surviving the Great War, she was brought home for restoration in 1922 and eventually floated into her permanent dry-dock at Greenwich in 1954.