Sovereign of the Seas
United States
BuilderDonald McKay of East Boston, MA
FateRan aground on the Pyramid Shoal in the Strait of Malacca, becoming a total loss, on voyage from Hamburg to China, 6 August 1859[1]: 97 
General characteristics
Class and typeExtreme clipper
Tons burthen2421 tons.
Length252 ft. (76.8m)
Beam45.6 ft. (13.9m)
Draft29.2 ft. (8.9m)
NotesHas held the record for the fastest speed ever for a sailing ship, 22 knots (41 km/h, 25 mph), since 1854

Sovereign of the Seas, a clipper ship built in 1852, was a sailing vessel notable for setting the world record for fastest sailing ship—22 knots.[2][a]

Notable passages

Drawing of Sovereign of the Seas from a 1910 book
Drawing of Sovereign of the Seas from a 1910 book

Built by Donald McKay of East Boston, Massachusetts, Sovereign of the Seas was the first ship to travel more than 400 nautical miles in 24 hours.[3] On the second leg of her maiden voyage, she made a record passage from Honolulu, Hawaii, to New York City in 82 days. She then broke the record to Liverpool, England, making the passage in 13 days 13.5 hours. In 1853 she was chartered by James Baines of the Black Ball Line, Liverpool for the Australia trade.


In 1854, Sovereign of the Seas recorded the fastest speed for a sailing ship, logging 22 knots (41 km/h, 25 mph).[2]

See also


  1. ^ Note that this is a very specific record. It applies to a ship in the most literal sense, a three masted, square rigged, sailing vessel. It has been far exceeded by multi-hulled sailing craft and modern monohulls.


  1. ^ MacGregor, David R (1993). British and American Clippers: A Comparison of their Design, Construction and Performance. London: Conway Maritime Press Limited. ISBN 0-85177-588-8.
  2. ^ a b Octavius T. Howe; Frederick G. Matthews (1986). American Clipper Ships 1833-1858. Vol. 1. New York. ISBN 0-486-25115-2.
  3. ^ "San Francisco Commerce, Past, Present and Future". Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine. April 1888. p. 370. Retrieved 23 December 2016.

Further reading