Cutty Sark is a British clipper ship. She continued as a ship until purchased in 1922 by retired sea captain Wilfred Dowman. After his death, Cutty Sark was transferred to the Thames Nautical Training College, by 1954, she had ceased to be useful as a cadet ship and was transferred to permanent dry dock at Greenwich, London, for public display. Cutty Sark is listed by National Historic Ships as part of the National Historic Fleet, the ship has been damaged by fire twice in recent years, first on 21 May 2007 while undergoing conservation. She was restored and was reopened to the public on 25 April 2012, on 19 October 2014 she was damaged in a smaller fire. Cutty Sark was ordered by shipping magnate John Willis, who operated a company founded by his father. The company had a fleet of clippers and regularly took part in the tea trade from China to Britain. In 1868 the brand new Aberdeen built clipper Thermopylae set a time of 61 days port to port on her maiden voyage from London to Melbourne. It is uncertain how the shape for Cutty Sark was chosen. Willis chose Hercules Linton to design and build the ship but Willis already possessed another ship, The Tweed, which he considered to have exceptional performance. The Tweed was a designed by Oliver Lang based on the lines of an old French frigate. She and a ship were purchased by Willis, who promptly sold the second ship plus engines from The Tweed for more than he paid for both. The Tweed was then lengthened and operated as a fast sailing vessel, Willis also commissioned two all-iron clippers with designs based upon The Tweed, Halloween and Blackadder. Linton was taken to view The Tweed in dry dock, Willis considered that The Tweeds bow shape was responsible for its notable performance, and this form seems to have been adopted for Cutty Sark. Linton, however, felt that the stern was too barrel shaped, the broader stern increased the buoyancy of the ships stern, making it lift more in heavy seas so it was less likely that waves would break over the stern, and over the helmsman at the wheel. The square bilge was carried forward through the centre of the ship, in the matter of masts Cutty Sark also followed the design of The Tweed, with similar good rake and with the foremast on both ships being placed further aft than was usual. A contract for Cutty Sarks construction was signed on 1 February 1869 with the firm of Scott & Linton and their shipyard was at Dumbarton on the River Leven on a site previously occupied by shipbuilders William Denny & Brothers. The contract required the ship to be completed six months at a contracted price of £17 per ton
Cutty Sark with sails set. Photograph taken at sea by Captain Woodget with a camera balanced on two of the ship's boats lashed together.
The ship's figurehead shows Cutty-sark, the nickname of the witch Nannie Dee who chases Tam o' Shanter, snatching his horse's tail before he escapes by crossing water
Cutty Sark in Sydney Harbour awaiting a cargo of new season's wool, c.1890