16,000 Mile Race Won by 12 Minutes

Toronto Telegram, March 1, 1937
Schooner Days DCCLXXXV (785)
By C.H.J. Snider


Mr. Alguire's model of the Taeping

Another follower of Schooner Days, Mr. G. Alguire, 401 Indian Grove, Toronto, asks for particulars of the British tea clipper Taeping of eighty years ago. He has a large scenic model of her in a glass case 40 x 20 x 26. ploughing along under three skysails, studdingsails from the royals down, and double topsails – a grand sight. Clipper ships come under the category of "another story," but Mr. Alguire. and all readers are welcome to what Schooner Days has been able to learn about them.

Taeping was one of the new composite clippers, built of live oak on iron frames (and lined with gutta percha against galvanic action) by Robert Steele & Co., of Greenock, in 1863, about the time the Confederate cruiser Alabama was sweeping the American clipper ships from the seas. The clippers were so fast that some escaped by flight from the Alabama, though she used every ounce of steam and every stitch of sail, and she had a large barque rig, in chasing them.

The American clippers at this time were principally engaged in the lucrative California and Australian trade, though rivalling the British in tea from China and gold-diggers to Down Under. The Taeping was one of the lean, keen greyhounds, built to earn the fat freight and fat premium of ten shillings a ton for the first ship back with the season's tea pack.

Fastest time in 1865

With the 1865 pack under hatches the Taeping sailed from Foo-chow early in June, for London. The Fiery Cross and the Serica had left side by side on the 28th of May. All three raced night and day for the next three months and more, from China to the Cape, the Cape to the Line, the Equator to the Channel, the Taeping just below the horizon until they sighted the Lizard. The leaders reached the Isle of Wight in 106 days. At Beachy Head the Serica was leading Fiery Cross by two miles and the Taeping's skysail was pricking the western horizon. They were nearing the end of their straining and striving under sail.

Serica picked up a tug first, for the tow through the Downs and up the "London River," as sailors call the Thames. But Fiery Cross got a stronger tug, and waded past her, so that she beat Serica to the London docks by "one tide," which may have meant six or twelve hours. It also meant a prize of $3,000 in cash to he first in with the tea, in addition to the whopping big freight money, which sometimes run to £6 a ton.


Taeping and Ariel neck and neck In the English Channel after racing day and night for three months from China

The next tide brought in the Taeping, not even runner-up for the premium this time, but the actual winner of the 16.000 mile race, for she had reached the Downs in 101 days from Foo-chow, six days better time than the Fiery Cross and Serica.

Three hundred sails spread

Next year there was a wonderful race with the 1866 crop, from the Pagoda anchorage at Foo-chow to London, The entrants were the three-masted ships Ada, Ariel, Black Prince, Chinaman, Fiery Cross, Flying Spur, Serica, Taeping and Taitsing, spreading among them three hundred sails. Each ship had at least thirty individual pieces of canvas, some forty. Such later clippers as the James Baines carried moon-sails, the seventh up from the deck, and studding sails on both sides of even their sky sails; she could set sixty sails. The Ariel started from the Pagoda anchorage 20 minutes ahead of the Taeping. At Deal, 99 days later, Taeping was just eight minutes behind her passing the lighthouse, where they picked up their tugs. So she had won the race by 12 minutes actual time, after logging 16,000 miles.

Taeping was slightly smaller and lighter loaded, and towed more easily, or had a better tug, for she moored in London half an hour ahead of Ariel, two hours and a quarter ahead of Serica, and many hours, even days, ahead of the rest of the fleet. Taeping and Ariel were by the same builders, launched two years apart. Ariel registered 86 tons more. They divided the premium, though Taeping fairly claimed the race. All had loaded light, apparently for speed purposes. The tea they brought this voyage was, Taeping 1,108,709 lbs., Ariel 1,230,900. Serica 954,236, Fiery Cross 854,236, Taitsing 1,093,130 lbs. – apparently about half their maximum deadweight capacity. The captains all dined together at the Ship and Turtle Tavern, in Leadenhall street.

Not amateur sport

After this race the premium system was dropped. It was obvious that winning the premium at the price of half the possible freight money was poor business—and losing both was worse.

Rodger & Co. owned the Taeping and her captain was a Scot named McKinnon. For all of her forty sails and 45,000 square feet of canvas, she was handled by a crew of thirty men – only eight more than are used in the America's Cup J-class yachts of 7,500 feet sail area with their three-piece suits and 17,000-foot spinnakers.

Taeping measured 767 tons register and could carry 1,234 tons of tea at 50 cubic feet to the ton. These tea clippers, quoting from Captain Arthur Clark's Clipper Ship Era, carried from 200 to 300 tons of shingle ballast, which was leveled off as smooth as a dance floor. The tea chests, well wrapped in matting to preserve the flavor, were carefully packed on the ballast and well padded with tons of dunnage wood, which prevented the upper tiers crushing the lower ones as the ship roiled. A cargo so stowed and ballasted would be much less than the total cubic contents of the hold. These yacht-like clippers, with their fine lines, carried much less on the same dimensions than the bulk freighters which handled wool, grain, coal or nitrates. They were faster than the freight steamers of today or the passenger steamers of their own time. At 100 days from China to England and 63 days from England to Australia they were literally the "fastest ships in the world" – the Marco Polo's proud boast. The Taeping's speed records were excelled by the larger American clippers of later date or other latitudes. Her best day's run in 1866, was 319 miles in 24 hours, an average of 13.3 knots or 15 statute miles per hour. The 2,000-ton American clipper James Baines, designed by Donald McKay, a Nova Scotian, recorded a day's run of 420 miles, averaging 17 knots, or 20 miles an hour.

Our lake schooners, shorter and smaller, never made such records, although they have claimed "12 miles an hour by the wind and 16 running," and have proved equal to 12 knots or 14 miles an hour on shorter runs. The well known Bluenose claimed 17 miles an hour, but the best measured course record she established was slightly over 13 knots, or say 15 statute miles per hour for a 6-mile burst.

"Poland is not lost forever!"

The refrain of the old national anthem, with yearning cadence reminiscent of "Juanita," rings through greetings from Montreal and Toronto which gallant Poles have extended to one completing his first fifty years of service with The Evening Telegram. A diplomat representing Poland in Ottawa when Poland was our ally and being torn to shreds between Germany and Russia, and now an exile, a Canadian guest without a country, wired:

"Will you accept, please, my heartfelt and most sincere wishes of many happy returns on the occasion of your golden jubilee. You can be sure that the Polish nation is admiring with deep gratitude your uncompromising courageous stand for highest ideals of human freedom and rights of oppressed people. Very sincerely yours."

Then there was Major Kirk's surprise tribute: "On many occasions you displayed a profound understanding of the situation in which the Polish nation found itself, and, being a champion of every right cause, you did not hesitate to defend that cause staunchly." Major Kirk is a Canadian, chairman of the management committee of United Polish Relief, and tried and tested friend of every honest Pole. It was a surprise to find that he, or any of the Poles, should know about this 50-year period of newspaper work.

Next came two gentlemen, with apologies for the moment chosen, but it was their noon hour and the only time they had free. They were officers in the Polish National Union of Canada and they brought a book – in English, not in Polish. It was Yan Ciechanowski's "Defeat in Victory", but the accompanying inscription was anything but defeatist. It rang with the faith and the courage which plucked victory from defeat when Yan Sobieski turned the Turks from the gates of Vienna and saved Europe from Moslem inundation; the same courage and faith which inspired Polish exiles to drill in overalls on Niagara Common in 1917, to revive a Poland that had been dismembered for a hundred years.


"Dip the flag - he's blowing five shorts!"

They succeeded, and so will those who now mourn Poland as a puppet state.

The inscription was:

"On behalf of the executive and members, in tribute and acknowledgment to the Associate Editor of The Evening Telegram on the occasion of his 50th year in the newspaper profession."

Names subscribed are not mentioned in this connection, out of regard for the safety of possible relatives of well-wishers, who are unable to get out of the present police-ridden state. But their remembrance is heartening. "Jeszcze Polsna nie zginela" - "Poland is not lost forever. Poland is not lost, no never."

There were so many other congratulations, all personal but sufficiently public to perhaps justify this public acknowledgement of them. Those from T. L. Church, K.C., and John R. Macnicoll, both M.P.'s, recalled the long, hard Telegram battles shared forty years ago, when the Hydro was a vision, a crazy dream, in which few believed and which all the vested interests decided. They told us power could be transmitted from as far as Niagara to Toronto but ninety-eight percent would be lost in transmission.

And the boy from Arthur Roebuck, boyhood rival on the Star, when he sailed the Sunbeam in the old Queen City Yacht Club, and we had the little Frou Frou, which he bought at a generous price and took north for the Temiscamingue Yacht Club of New Liskeard. Now he's Senator A. W. Roebuck, K.C., and trying to build a sane immigration policy in a country that has none.

And one from Capt. Dan Rooney of Cobourg, "Little Dan," and his daughter. He was sailing the Jessie Drummond before I joined the Telegram, and before he "swallowed the anchor" was sailing two schooners one season simultaneously, the Charlie Marshall and the Sophia J. Luff, leaving one in port unloading while he went by train or steamer to bring up the other one which would be loading in his absence. As hard as my own two-timing for the first week, for I had to work day and night to save the drawback of one week's pay held by the distributing firm I was leaving to join The Telegram.

Another pleasant reminder of the completion of the first half century of newspaper work came from a friend of Schooner Days, in both senses, Rowley Murphy, whose war marines are the best active service stuff we have seen. It was a sketch dashed off to illustrate his first word – "Greetings" – and so appropriate that we seized on it to decorate the top of this column, it describes without words the "passing hails" of a topsail schooner on the lakes – like the Stuart H. Dunn of Kingston – and a bulk freighter like the Rosedale, when they still had presentable spars. The puffs of steam from the Rosedale's whistle are giving the "Five Shorts" often blown in greeting and the Dunn is responding with her ensign at the mizzen peak.




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