Page last updated at 11:57 GMT, Monday, 19 October 2009 12:57 UK

Cutty Sark delayed by nine months

By Andy Dangerfield
BBC London

The painting of the iron frame at the bow is finished by hand
The iron frame is being painted by hand

The reopening of the famous 19th Century ship Cutty Sark has been postponed until the spring of 2011.

The historic tea clipper, based in Greenwich, south-east London, was ravaged by a fire in May 2007.

The Cutty Sark Trust, which is rebuilding the ship, had previously said it would reopen to visitors in the summer of 2010.

But the charity's chief executive Richard Doughty said he was "confident we will open in spring 2011".

The ship is currently shrouded to protect the structure while it is being refurbished.

The covering will be removed in 2010, but it will be another year before the public will be allowed on board.

"We're hoping to have it fully ready by Easter 2011, a full year before the Olympics," said Mr Doughty.

'Sparkling white'

Mr Doughty also confirmed there was still a funding gap of up to £5m to reach the Cutty Sark Trust's vision.

"The frame had corroded more than we thought which has meant additional work. We have sufficient money to conserve the ship, but we have a vision for it," he said.

"We are looking for more money. We have around £35m and could still need up to £5m more but we are closing the gap."

He added: "When we unveil the ship, we'll then go to the public. It's something truly worth investing in."

Mr Doughty said the ship was looking "stunning" and "sparkling white".

The frame has been wrapped to protect the paintwork while the conservation work continues.
The frame is wrapped to protect paintwork while conservation continues

The ship's new parts have been made at several sites across London and are now being delivered to Greenwich and fixed to the shell of the ship.

"It's a jigsaw puzzle. It's now about reassembling the parts," said Mr Doughty.

The 900-tonne vessel, designed by Hercules Linton, was constructed in 1869 in Dumbarton, launching in November that year.

As one of the last tea clippers to be built, the ship was made for intensely competitive races from China, with huge profits to the first ship to bring tea back to London.

But as clippers lost out in the tea trade to steamers, the Cutty Sark began to transport wool from Australia.

In 1954, after being restored to its original appearance, it was moved to a custom-built dry-dock at Greenwich, and became a popular tourist attraction and famous landmark in the London Marathon.

After years of lobbying for its full restoration, it was awarded grants of £25m and was closed in November 2006 so work could begin.

But a fire, sparked by an industrial vacuum cleaner, raged through the ship on 21 May 2007.

When repair and restoration work is complete, The Cutty Sark Trust plans to unveil it as it would have looked in 1872.

"It will be the icon of world heritage sites," said Mr Doughty.

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Amateur video of the Cutty Sark fire in May 2007



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