StateLibQld 1 149243 Fiery Cross (ship).jpg
Fiery Cross, in later years, with the rig reduced to barque
United Kingdom
OwnerJohn Campbell, Glasgow
BuilderShipyard at Chaloner, Liverpool
NotesFirst tea clipper home in 1861,1862, 1863 and 1865.[1]: 122 
NameEllen Lines
Out of service1889 or 1893
General characteristics
Class and typeClipper ship
Tonnage695 NRT[1]: 122 
Length185 ft (56 m)[1]: 120 
Beam31.7 ft (9.7 m)[1]: 120 
Depth19.2 ft (5.9 m)[1]: 120 
NotesDesigned by William Rennie.[1]: 120  Equipped with Cunningham's roller-reefing top-sails and steel masts.[2]
Lines of clipper Fiery Cross
Lines of clipper Fiery Cross

Fiery Cross was a famous British tea clipper which sailed in the Great Tea Race of 1866. She was the first ship home in the tea seasons of 1861, 1862, 1863, and 1865.[1]

She was the second tea clipper of this name; the first Fiery Cross, built in 1855, had the same owner and designer and was also built in Liverpool. This earlier ship was lost on the then-uncharted Fiery Cross Reef in the China Sea on 4 March 1860 (the crew reached land safely in her boats). The new ship was already being built and so took on the name of her predecessor.[1]

Tea trade

From 1860 to 1875, the ship sailed in the tea trade between London and Chinese ports like Hong Kong, Foochow, Canton, and Shanghai.[1]: 231–241 

Great Tea Race of 1866

Laden with close to a million pounds of tea, Fiery Cross raced nine other ships from China to England in The Great Tea Race of 1866. Fiery Cross arrived fourth, in "the closest run ever recorded".[3] The first five ships, Taiping, Ariel, Serica, Fiery Cross, and Taitsing, finished the 14,000 mile race within three days of one another.

Fiery Cross had the best overall 24-hour run of all the competitors in this race on 24 June, when she travelled 318 miles, averaging 13.7 knots.[4]

Sailing performance

According to Lubbock, the tea clippers Fiery Cross, Taeping, Serica and Lahloo performed at their best in light breezes, as they were all rigged with single topsails.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i MacGregor, David R. (1983). The Tea Clippers, Their History and Development 1833-1875. Conway Maritime Press Limited. pp. 120–123. ISBN 0-85177-256-0.
  2. ^ Robert Kipping (1847). "Cunningham's Patent Self-Reefing Topsails". Retrieved 19 February 2010.
  3. ^ "The Great Tea Race, 1866". The Shipping and Mercantile Gazette. 12 September 1866. p. 5. Retrieved 18 February 2010. The Taeping took in 1,108,700 lbs. of tea, the Ariel 1,230,900 lbs., the Serica 954,236 lbs., the Fiery Cross 854,236 lbs., and the Taitsing 1,093,130 lbs.
  4. ^ Arthur H. Clark (1911). "The clipper ship era; an epitome of famous American and British clipper ships, their owners, builders, commanders, and crews, 1843-1869". G. P. Putnam's Sons. p. 330. Retrieved 18 February 2010. The best twenty-four hours' runs were as follows : Average, Ariel June 25 317 miles 13.2 knots ... Fiery Cross June 24 328 miles 13.7 knots
  5. ^ Lubbock, Basil (1919). The China Clippers (4th ed.). Glasgow: James Brown & Son. p. 155.