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The Great
Tea Race


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History of the Race

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    Tea Races – races of clippers with tea loads on a trade way from China to England. From basic goods, Chinese tea was promising a considerable profit for the merchants. Transported on old vessels, it took up to 12 months for the goods to be delivered, becoming damp and adopting the smell of the ship.

    In 1834 the East Indian company lost monopoly for trade with China. In 1849 action of the Navigation Act of Cromwell was cancelled. In that same year, an American clipper  “Oriyental” made its way back through the race from Hong Kong  within 81 days. Next year – 80 days. In 1850 the clipper made its transition within 97 days. At English shipyard in Blackwall, measurements were secretively taken of the clipper ( an example of industrial espionage).

    Next year at the Scottish shipyard two clippers “Storneuey” and “Krizelayt” go after the American clipper.  In 1852 shipyard in Blackwall release an English twin to “Oriyental”-clipper “Challenger”.

“   Hound dogs of the Ocean”- such nicknames clippers received on the British Islands – delivering freights from China within 3-4 months.  

    Since 1859, when the Chinese ports released 11 clippers simultaneously, “tea races” were carried out on regular basis. The most striking of all races was happened in 1866. Between 26th and 28th of May 1866, raid of 16 clippers took off from Fuzhou city (China). After a long journey, on 5th of September clippers “Thaipin” and “Ariel” with a difference of 10 minutes, at the mouth of Thames, took aboard pilots. A grand racket passed through the press, and the owners of “Thaipin”, once received their award, had decided to share it with the owners of “Ariel”. The Captain of “Thaipin” had personally shared his award with the Captain of “Ariel”.

    In 1869 the Suez Canal had been discovered, and in 1887 the path from Bombay to London only took 16 ½ days by steamship, and 35 days from Melbourne. Steamships took the leadership in the races ever since, delivering best freight, receiving biggest profits, forcing sailing vessels to leave and take other routes.