Champion of the Seas (clipper)

Champion of the Seas. Photo by Southworth & Hawes ca.1854
Career (United States)
Owner: Black Ball Line, Liverpool
Builder: Donald McKay, East Boston, MA
Launched: April 1854 [1]
Career (United Kingdom)
Owner: Black Ball Line, Liverpool
Acquired: 1866, Thomas Harrison and Thomas Sully Stowe, for £ 9750 (chartered back to the Black Ball Line); 1874, A. Cassels, Liverpool for £ 7500.
Out of service: 1877
Status: Abandoned off Cape Horn
General characteristics
Class and type: Clipper
Tons burthen: 2447 tons
Length: 252 ft. (76.8m)
Beam: 45.6 ft. (13.9m)
Draft: 29.2 ft. (8.9m)
Sail plan: 3 masts
Notes: Held speed record for 130 yrs. for day's run: 465 nautical miles (861 km) in 24 hours, 10-11 Dec. 1854

Champion of the Seas was the second large 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. This record stood until August 1984, nearly 130 years.



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.[1] She had 3 decks.[2] 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."[4] 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 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 (748 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.  
1 January 1860 – 26 March 1860 Melbourne-Liverpool in 85 days.  
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.[1] [2]


  1. ^ a b c d Lubbock, Basil (1921). The Colonial Clippers (2nd ed.). Glasgow: James Brown & Son. pp. 73–76. OCLC 1750412. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ Bruzelius, Lars (Transcription copyright 1997). "Boston Daily Atlas, Vol. XXII, No. 274, Saturday, May 20, 1854". The New Clipper Ship Champion of the Seas. The Maritime History Virtual Archives. Retrieved 4 Feb. 2011. 
  4. ^ McKay, Richard C. (1928). Some Famous Sailing Ships and Their Builder, Donald McKay. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. OCLC 566052. 

External links

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