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 The Great Tea Race of 1866

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PostSubject: The Great Tea Race of 1866   Sun 10 Jun 2012, 15:27

In the 1860's 90% of the tea drunk in Britain came from China. Tea loses some of it's flavour while in hold storage,so traders demanded it be carried home as quickly as possible,with bonuses paid to the first ship to reach London. The ships the tea was carried in were the China Tea Clippers, fast, elegant vessels which by 1866 had become household names in Britain.

The Spring crop of tea was brought from the fields by sampans down the Min River to the port of Foochow [modern day Fouzhou] then packed and loaded onto the clippers.

Fiery Cross,the first ship home in 1861-62-63 and 65,was the first ship to leave Foochow on the 29th May,followed 14 hours later by Ariel, Serica [winner in 1864]and Taeping, the new Taitsing on the 31st and Ada, Black Prince, Chinaman and Flying Spur between the 3rd and 6th of June. In the event, the race would be between the first four ships away.

Fiery Cross held her lead as they ran south, passing the Paracel Islands on the morning of the 3rd June, Ariel and Taeping following in the afternoon, with Serica about a day behind.On the 9th, Fiery Cross and Taeping passed each other on opposite tacks,and the next day Taeping and Ariel met on the same tack.

Fiery Cross still held the advantage and was first through the Sunda Strait on the 19th June. From there, the route ran across the Indian Ocean, round the Cape of Good Hope, then out into the Atlantic to catch the trade winds home. Storms forced the ships to shorten sail in the Indian Ocean between Mauritius and the Cape,though betwen Anjer and Mauritius, Ariel made 330 miles in 24 hours in front of a steady south-easterly.

As they swung out into the the Atlantic, Fiery Cross maintained her lead, crossing the Meridian 15 hours ahead of Ariel, a day ahead of Taeping, 4 days ahead of Serica and 9 days ahead of Taitsing.The race northwards saw Taeping close the gap considerably,and when the Equator was crossed on the 4th August the three leaders were in sight of each other.Off the Cape Verde Islands,Fiery Cross was becalmed for 24 hours,while Taeping managed to catch enough wind to move her clear of the dead zone.

The race was now between Ariel and Taeping with the fast closing Serica in third.The two leaders entered the Channel side by side and raced at 14 knots towards the pilot station at Dungeness.

Taeping, nearest, and Ariel off the Lizzard.

Ariel arrived first at Dungeness,but had to hove to until 4am on the 6th September until a pilot came out, by which time Taeping was alongside. The race continued to Deal for the steam tugs,the best of which came out first, and picked up the nearest ship,Taeping.Taeping had further to go to reach her berth at London Docks,which she did at 9.45pm on the 6th September,20 minutes before Ariel berthed at the East India Dock.

Serica arrived on the same tide and berthed at the West India Dock at 11.15pm. After 102 days and 14,000 miles the first three ships had arrived within 2 hours of each other.Fiery Cross arrived on the 8th and Taitsing on the 9th.

The great days of the China Tea Clippers would soon pass, as production moved increasingly to Assam and Ceylon and tea was brought to Britain in steamships using the Suez Canal, but 1866 saw the greatest of all Clipper races.
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Nobiles Barbariæ

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PostSubject: Re: The Great Tea Race of 1866   Sun 10 Jun 2012, 16:14

Hi Trike - I've resized your image. Linking directly to images over 400px wide disrupts the forum's formatting in many browsers. Best to resize them first. Wikipedia images especially tend to be huge.

Was the race described an organised one? I imagine each of the ships were rewarded for their speed by the individual importers, but had someone put up a main prize for the first one in to port?
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Tea Race of 1866   Sun 10 Jun 2012, 16:30

No problem Nordmann,looks much better resized.

The race was actually unofficial, it was something which had grown up over the years and just developed due to the competitive nature of the business.

By 1866, it had become traditional for the ship owners to award the skipper of the first ship home a bonus of £100 plus the cargo was purchased with an additional premium,one source says 6d per pound, another 10 shillings per ton, over and above the normal purchase price.

Inevitably, it also attracted gambling, with bets between the ship owners, tea merchants and the general public.The crews of the Fiery Cross and the Serica bet each other one months wages that each would beat the other home.
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