Date: 23 July 2015 09h00 LT
Position: West India Dock
History of the clipper Stad AmsterdamA sailing trip on the Stad Amsterdam is an unforgettable experience for every tall ship enthusiast. In the nineteenth century, life aboard a clipper was rough. The slim, fast vessels were built for trading non-perishable goods with a high profit margin, such as tea and spices. The ships also transported passengers and post. Competition was severe. To keep the ships profitable in this tough market, crews were cut down in size. Food was often poor, and working conditions harsh. When hoisting sails, all hands formed a line on deck and pulled at the lines. All work on the masts and rigging was manual. Pumps were often manned day and night in order to keep the ever-leaky vessels afloat. Especially when seas were high, or when a ship was poorly maintained, the work was hard.
This age gave birth to the traditional seaman’s shanty. These work songs offered some relief during the heavy labour, and they are still performed by choirs at nautical events to this day.
Sailing race: Cutty Sark vs Thermopylae
Trade and the merchant fleet were big stories in the newspapers of their day. In 1872 the world famous tall ship race between the clippers Cutty Sark and Thermopylae took place. The owner of whichever clipper could get a cargo of Chinese tea from Shanghai to London fastest, was entitled to a considerable sum of money. The race was a ‘hot topic’: a large audience followed every step and all the papers covered it. The Cutty Sark lost her rudder in a severe storm, and completed the trip in 122 days. Thermopylae was seven days faster and therefore won the competition.