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Cutty Sark: Queen Unveils World's Oldest Tea Clipper In Greenwich (PICTURES)

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CUTTY SARK
The Cutty Sark is the world's oldest tea clipper | PA

The revamped Cutty Sark, the world's last remaining tea clipper, has been unveiled by the Queen after a £50 million restoration project.

Despite surviving the roughest seas, a devastating fire ripped through the vessel in 2007, after a vacuum cleaner was left on.

However the "spectacular" Cutty Sark has now been restored to her heyday, the clipper once a pivotal craft for the British trade, carrying goods from around the globe back to England.

It has been 55 years since the Queen first opened the nautical attraction to the public, and today she returned to repeat the ceremony but for a Cutty Sark now in a dramatic new setting.

Richard Doughty, director of the Cutty Sark Trust, described the vessel as "spectacular" and said: "We have a ship fit for the Queen and we're very proud Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh have come to open the site.

"Fifty-five years on from when she first came, it's a very different experience, offering a light environment in the Cutty Sark's new elevated position."

People have invested love in this ship to put it back together again", he said.

Queen Elizabeth on deck with Richard Doughty

The clipper is now lifted more than 11ft (3.4m) above its dry berth in Greenwich, south east London, and is once again a major landmark passed by runners who took part in Sunday's marathon.

The space under the three-masted vessel is home to an interactive museum where visitors can learn about its history.

A fire in 2007, caused by a vacuum cleaner that had been left on, had damaged the ship. However most of the fixtures and fittings had been removed for a major project to renovate the vessel, now 143-years-old, so visitors can see many original features on deck.
The Queen also unveiled a plaque to mark Greenwich becoming a royal borough, an honour bestowed to mark her Diamond Jubilee.

The monarch and Philip arrived just as driving rain that had lashed the ship and the hundreds of well-wishers began to stop.

The Queen and Prince Philip stand with a collection of Navy figureheads

The royal couple took their place on a dais and listened to an orchestral and choral suite commissioned by Greenwich to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and composed by Errollyn Wallen.

The royal couple later moved inside to view the Cutty Sark's cramped decks that during its working life were filled with tea from China, and when this cargo was no longer an option, it carried hessian from Manila to New York and castor oil from Calcutta to Melbourne.

Despite it sleek hull and large sails, the ship was dogged by bad winds and accidents and never became the fastest vessel in the tea trade.

The Queen also visited the royal barge whilst she was in Greenwich

But she came into her own as a wool clipper sailing the trade route around South America's Cape Horn and through the Roaring Forties trade winds, setting in 1885 a record passage time of 73 days from Sydney to London.

Displays on the decks tell the history of the vessel from its construction to how tea is made in China, and Philip had to bow his head at several points to avoid metal girders.

The royal couple ventured onto the top deck as the rain stopped and high above their heads were dozens of sailing volunteers in the rigging, with many on the 152ft (46m) main mast.

Philip has a long association with the ship, co-founding the Cutty Sark Society in 1951 to safeguard the vessel.

He came to Greenwich soon after the fire to assess the damage for himself and Mr Doughty said that the Duke had given up his association with a number of bodies when he turned 90 last year but maintained his relationship with the society, now a trust.
"That shows the depth of commitment he has for this ship he helped to save," he said.

The director added that Philip had given staff valuable advice from lessons he had learned after the devastating fire at Windsor Castle in 1992.

He said: "He gave us moral support and some very practical advice in terms of how to get the best from consultants and contractors and other sorts of challenges we might encounter."

Correction: An earlier version of this article didn't make it clear that the Queen also visited the Royal Barge during her trip to Greenwich. This has now been amended

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