Champion of the Seas

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Career United Kingdom
Owner: Black Ball Line, Liverpool
Builder: Donald McKay of East Boston, MA
Launched: 1854
Out of service: 1877
Status: Abandoned off Cape Horn
General characteristics
Class and type: Extreme clipper
Tons burthen: 2447 tons
Length: 252 ft. (76.8m)
Beam: 45.6 ft. (13.9m)
Draft: 29.2 ft. (8.9m)
Notes: Held speed record for 130 yrs. for day's run: 465 nautical miles (861 km) in 24 hours, Dec. 10-11 1854

Champion of the Seas was the second large clipper ship destined for the Liverpool, England - Melbourne, Australia passenger service. Champion was ordered by James Baines of the Black Ball Line from Donald McKay. She was launched April 19, 1854 and was abandoned January 3, 1877, leaking badly off Cape Horn.

Champion of the Seas is credited with one of the fastest day's run in 24 hours: 465 nautical miles (861 km) noon to noon December 10-11, 1854 under the command of Captain Alexander Newlands. This record stood until August 1984, nearly 130 years.


Builder: Donald McKay of East Boston, MA
L.O.D.: 252 ft. (76.8m)
Beam: 45.6 ft. (13.9m)
Draft: 29.2 ft. (8.9m)
Tonnage: 2447 tons
Masts: 3

Champion of the Seas's figurehead was the full figure of a sailor "with his hat in his right hand, and left hand extended...It was certainly a most striking figurehead, the tall square-built mariner, with dark curly hair and bronze clean-shaven face" as quoted from Some Famous Sailing Ships by Richard C. McKay.


James Baines, owner of the Black Ball Line of Liverpool, ordered Champion of the Seas from Donald McKay of East Boston in the U.S.A. She was similar in appearance to McKay's other clippers, Lightning and James Baines, but set no sails above the royals. She held the record for the longest day's run, 465 nautical miles (861 km) on December 10-11 , 1854 on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Melbourne.

From her launching to 1868, Champion served in the passenger trade. During the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the British government chartered the three Black Ball clippers to carry troops to Calcutta. Before embarking about 1,000 troops, she and James Baines were reviewed by Queen Victoria. In 1868 she entered the general shipping trade, until January 1877 when she was abandoned leaking badly and with a load of guano off Cape Horn.

Date Log Master
April 19, 1854 Launched at the shipyard of Donald McKay, East Boston, for the Black Ball Line, Liverpool.  
June, 1854 New York to Liverpool in 29 days. Captain Alexander Newlands
October 11, 1854 – December 26, 1854 Her maiden voyage Liverpool - Melbourne took 75 days during which a 24 hour run of 465 miles (748 km) was recorded. Captain Alexander Newlands
1855 Melbourne-Liverpool in 84 days. Captain Alexander Newlands
1855 Liverpool-Melbourne in 83 days. Captain John McKirdy
1855 - January 25, 1856 Melbourne-Liverpool in 90 days. Captain John McKirdy
1856 Liverpool-Melbourne in 85 days.  
August 10, 1857 Portsmouth-Bay of Bengal together with James Baines. Arrived at Sandheads after 101 days.  
January 1, 1860 – March 26, 1860 Melbourne-Liverpool in 85 days.  
1866 Sold to Thomas Harrison and Thomas Sully Stowe for £ 9750, but chartered back to the Black Ball Line for three more voyages  
September 1868 Put into general trading.  
February 1874 After having found that she was badly affected by dry rot she was subsequently sold to A. Cassels of Liverpool for £ 7500.  
July 1875 Arrived at San Francisco-Hong Kong in 39 days. Captain Wilson
October 5, 1875 San Francisco-Callao in 45 days.  
January 3, 1877 Abandoned off Cape Horn in leaking condition with a cargo of guano. The crew was saved by the British barque Windsor.


Some Famous Sailing Ships by Richard C. McKay.

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