The Full Wiki

More info on The Great Tea Race of 1866

The Great Tea Race of 1866: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

The Great Tea Race of 1866 was an unofficial competition between the fastest clipper ships of the China tea trade to bring the season's first crop of tea to London in 1866.

Fierce competition existed year round to be the vessel first back to London with the new shipment of tea; extra incentives were added in 1866, when heavy bets were made in England on the winner.

The tea clipper races had by this time become a tradition in the tea trade between Britainmarker and China. The winning vessel was awarded an extra pound sterling for every ton of freight delivered, and the captain of the winning tea clipper was given a percentage of the ship's earnings.

Preparing to race

The ships could not leave port in China until the ship was fully loaded. The tea chests arrived by sampans and other small water craft up the Min River from Fuzhoumarker. The tea clippers were loaded around the clock by Chinese workers, while the crew checked the cargo and readied the ship.

In 1866, nine ships laden with the first tea of the season left Fuzhou between 29 May and 6 June, but only four of the nine were really competing for the prize: the Fiery Cross, the Ariel, the Taeping, and the Serica. Three sailed on 30 May, the Fiery Cross started on 29 May, but though she had a day's lead on her rivals, she still lost the race.

Report of the race

In London's Daily Telegraph of 12 September 1866, an article headed "The Great Tea Race of 1866" reported that the main competitors were the Fiery Cross, the Ariel, the Taeping, and the Serica.

Surprise finish

The race took over 3 months, crossing the South China Seamarker, through the Sunda Straitmarker of Indonesiamarker, across the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hopemarker of Africa, and up the Atlantic Ocean to the English Channelmarker. This was the fastest route for one ship to take, as the Suez Canalmarker was still under construction. The three leaders in the race docked in London within a short time of each other.

Near Dungenessmarker, harbour pilots boarded the Taeping and the Ariel at the same moment, and at the Downs steam tugs were waiting to tow them to the River Thames. It was at this point that the fight was really decided.

Both vessels were taken in tow at the same time and they were neck-and-neck going up the Thames. The Taeping, however, reached Gravesendmarker first, with the Ariel at close by and the Serica was still a close third. Taeping entered the dock at a quarter before 10:00 on Thursday. The Taeping won with a mere 20 minutes lead over Ariel, with Serica third, just one and a half hours behind the leader who won the prize.
In Teas of the World, Nancy Hyden Woodward wrote that the three tea clippers had taken just 102 days to sail three quarters of the way around the globe.

The Daily Mail recorded that "Taeping has thus secured the prize, which is an extra freight of 10 shillings a ton on her cargo of tea. " The Taeping was carrying 767 tons and 1,108,709 pounds of tea.



  1. London Daily Telegraph (12 September1866), page needed
  2. Woodward (1980), page needed

See also

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address