Tea clipper 'Cutty Sark', 1869.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Model, detail of bow. After an evolution of 5000 years, the sailing ship reached near perfection in the clipper ship of the mid-19th century. Clippers could transport a cargo of tea from China to London in 100 days. The only surviving example of the clippers is the 'Cutty Sark', now on display at Greenwich, London. Although she was famous as one of the fastest Tea Clippers, it was later, when engaged in the Australian wool trade, that she gained her greatest reputation for speed. The greater reliability and increasing efficiency of steam engines and the setting up of coaling stations around the world saw the beginning of the decline of sail. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 gave steamships a further advantage, as sailing ships could not make use of the short cut.