The Great Tea Race, 1866.

Nine ships laden with the first crop left Foo-Chow-Foo on dates varying from the 29th May to the 6th June last, but only four of the nine really competed for the prize -- the Fiery Cross, the Ariel, the Taeping, and the Serica. Three sailed on the 30th of May, the Fiery Cross started on the 29th, but, though she had a day's clear start of her rivals she lost the race.

The others, leaving China at the same time, sailed almost neck-and-neck the whole way, and finally arrived in the London docks within two hours of each other. A struggle more closely contested or more marvellous in some of its aspects has probably never before been witnessed. The Taeping, which won, arrived on the Lizard at literally the same hour as the Ariel, her nearest rival, and then dashed up the Channel, the two ships abreast of each other.

During the entire day they gallantly ran side by side, carried on by a strong westerly wind, every stitch of canvas set, and the sea sweeping their decks as they careered before the gale.

Off Dungeness the following morning the pilots boarded them at the same moment, and at the Downs steam tugs were in waiting to tow them to the river. It was at this point that the fight was really decided.

Both vessels were taken in tow simultaneously and again they started neck-to-neck. The Taeping, however, reached Gravesend first, the Ariel at her heels and the Serica a good third; and she entered the dock at a quarter before ten o'clock on Thursday evening just half an hour in advance of the Ariel and an hour and three quarters before the Serica. Taeping has this secured the prize, which is an extra freight of 10s. a ton on her cargo of tea.

Daily Telegraph, September 12, 1866.

Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius

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Copyright © 1996 Lars Bruzelius.