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Champion of the Seas

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Champion of the Seas. Photo by Southworth & Hawes ca.1854.
Champion of the Seas. Photo by Southworth & Hawes ca.1854.
United States
  • Donald McKay
  • (1854)
Port of registry: Boston
Builder: Donald McKay, East Boston, MA
Launched: 19 April 1854 (1854-04-19)
In service: 1854
United Kingdom
Port of registry: Liverpool
Acquired: September 1854 (re-registered)
Fate: Abandoned in leaking condition 3 January 1877
General characteristics
Class and type: Clipper
Tons burthen: 2,447 GRT
Length: 252 ft (77 m)
Beam: 45 ft 6 in (13.87 m)
Depth of hold: 29 ft (8.8 m)
Propulsion: Sails (6,250 sq yd (5,230 m2))
Sail plan: Full-rigged ship
Notes: [1][2]

Champion of the Seas was the second largest clipper ship destined for the Liverpool, England - Melbourne, Australia passenger service. Champion was ordered by James Baines of the Black Ball Line from Donald McKay. She was launched 19 April 1854 and was abandoned 3 January 1877, off Cape Horn.

Champion of the Seas set a record for the fastest day's run in 24 hours: 465 nautical miles (861 km) noon to noon 10–11 December 1854 under the command of Captain Alexander Newlands.[citation needed] This record stood until August 1984, nearly 130 years.[citation needed]


Champion of the Seas was "fuller aft than forward", and her strength of construction was an improvement over the Lightning, which Mackay had built the previous year. The frame was white oak, diagonally cross-braced with iron, planking and ceiling of hard pine, square fastened throughout.[3] She had 3 decks.[4] Her sail area and spars were roughly the same as Lightning. Her working suit of sails required 12,500 yards of cotton, 18 inches wide.

Upon completion, Champion of the Seas was towed from Boston to New York by the steam tug R.B. Forbes.[1][3]

Champion of the Seas's figurehead was the full figure of a sailor "with his hat in his right hand, and left hand extended ... It was certainly a most striking figurehead, the tall square-built mariner, with dark curly hair and bronze clean-shaven face."[5] Her semi-elliptical stern was ornamented with the coat of arms of Australia. She was painted black on the outside, white on the inside, with blue waterways: the colors of the Black Ball Line.


James Baines ordered Champion of the Seas from Donald McKay of East Boston for the Black Ball Line of Liverpool. She was similar in appearance to McKay's other clippers, Lightning and James Baines, but set no sails above the royals. She set the record for the longest day's run, 465 nautical miles (861 km) on 10–11 December 1854 on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Melbourne.

From her launching to 1868, Champion served in the passenger trade. During the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the British government chartered the three Black Ball clippers to carry troops to Calcutta. Before embarking about 1,000 troops, she and James Baines were reviewed by Queen Victoria. In 1868 she entered the general shipping trade. She remained in this trade until 3 January 1877 when she was abandoned, leaking badly, with a load of guano off Cape Horn.

Date Log Master
19 April 1854 Launched at the shipyard of Donald McKay, East Boston, for the Black Ball Line, Liverpool.  
June 1854 New York to Liverpool in 29 days. Captain Alexander Newlands
11 October 1854 – 26 December 1854 Her maiden voyage Liverpool - Melbourne took 75 days during which a 24‑hour run of 465 miles (861 km) was recorded. Captain Alexander Newlands
1855 Melbourne-Liverpool in 84 days. Captain Alexander Newlands
1855 Liverpool-Melbourne in 83 days. Captain John McKirdy
1855 - 25 January 1856 Melbourne-Liverpool in 90 days. Captain John McKirdy
1856 Liverpool-Melbourne in 85 days.  
10 August 1857 Portsmouth-Bay of Bengal together with James Baines. Arrived at Sand Heads, Calcutta after 101 days.  
1858 Departed Liverpool 8 August 1858 arrived Melbourne 7 November 1858

Passengers: 16 in Saloon and 298 in Intermediate and steerage.

Captain John McKirdy
1 January 1860 – 26 March 1860 Melbourne-Liverpool in 85 days.  
20 November 1860 to 24 February 1861 Melbourne to Liverpool Seaman William Cuthbert (my great great uncle). Served as seaman although he had a Master's certificate.
1866 Sold to Thomas Harrison and Thomas Sully Stowe for £9750, but chartered back to the Black Ball Line for three more voyages  
September 1868 Put into general trading.  
February 1874 After having found that she was badly affected by dry rot she was subsequently sold to A. Cassels of Liverpool for £7500.  
July 1875 Arrived at San Francisco-Hong Kong in 39 days. Captain Wilson
5 October 1875 San Francisco-Callao in 45 days.  
3 January 1877 Abandoned off Cape Horn in leaking condition with a cargo of guano. The crew was saved by the British barque Windsor.[3][4]

In popular culture

Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) had a practice of naming its airliners "Clippers", as an allusion to the clipper ships of earlier times.[6] Between 1984 and 1991, a Pan Am Boeing 747-121 airliner (MSN 19641 / tail number N734PA) was named Clipper Champion of the Seas in accordance with this practice. The airliner, which had been delivered to Pan Am in 1969, had previously been named Clipper Flying Cloud.[7]

See also



  1. ^ a b "The New Clipper Ship Champion of the Seas". Boston Daily Atlas. XXII (274). 20 May 1854. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  2. ^ Bunting, W. H. (1994). Portrait of a Port: Boston 1852–1914. London: Belknap Press. p. 74. ISBN 0-674-69076-1.
  3. ^ a b c Lubbock 1921, pp. 73–76.
  4. ^ a b Bruzelius, Lars (15 January 1998). "Sailing Ships: Champion of the Seas". Champion of the Seas. The Maritime History Virtual Archives. Retrieved 4 February 2011.
  5. ^ McKay, Richard C. (1928). Some Famous Sailing Ships and Their Builder, Donald McKay. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. OCLC 566052.
  6. ^ "Chasing the Sun: Pan Am Clipper". PBS. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  7. ^ Steele, John. "Names of the Pan Am Clippers 1934 to 1991" (PDF). Pan Am Historical Foundation. Pan Am Historical Foundation. Retrieved 4 February 2013.[permanent dead link]


  • Chase, Mary Ellen (1959). Donald McKay and the Clipper Ships. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. OCLC 570331.
  • Crothers, William L. (2000). The American-Built Clipper Ship, 1850-1856: Characteristics, Construction, and Details. Camden, ME: International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press; Blacklick, OH: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0071358234.
  • Cutler, Carl C. (1984). Greyhounds of the Sea: The Story of the American Clipper Ship (3rd ed.). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 087021232X.
  • Fraser, Rod (1999). The Champion of the Seas. Glen Waverley, Vic: Pilgrim Printing. ISBN 0957720203.
  • Howe, Octavius T.; Matthews, Fredric C. (1986) [1st. pub. Salem, Mass: Marine Research Society, 1926]. American Clipper Ships 1833–1858. Volume 1: Adelaide–Lotus. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0486251152.
  • La Grange, Helen; La Grange, Jacques (1936). Clipper Ships of America and Great Britain, 1833-1869. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 255–263. OCLC 1471826.
  • Lubbock, Basil (1921). The Colonial Clippers (2nd ed.). Glasgow: J. Brown & Son. pp. 53, 72–80, 90, 104, 111–112, 121, 199. OCLC 560917332.
  • McKay, Richard C (1995) [1st. pub. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1928]. Donald McKay and His Famous Sailing Ships. New York: Dover Publications. pp. 271–275. ISBN 048628820X.
  • Ross, Donald Gunn (III) (2012). The Era of the Clipper Ships: The Legacy of Donald McKay. 1. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1470155605.
  • Stammers, Michael (1978). The Passage Makers. Brighton, East Sussex: Teredo Books. ISBN 090366206X.

External links

This page was last edited on 19 December 2019, at 02:09
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