SIR LANCELOT

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Sir Lancelot James McCunn of Greenock, the originator of the floating bath was the proprietor of some of the finest clippers in the area e.g ARIEL and THERMOPYLAE.
He seems to have been a man romantically inclined and with a nice taste in either Arthurian legend or the works of Lard Tennyson.
At all events when he had the mighty local firm of Robert Steele build for him a clipper that was the spirit of the Ariel; he gravely consulted the Poet Laureate as to the spelling of the name he had chosen for her ---Sir Lancelot. Mr McCunn himself inclined to 'Launcelot' but the bard voted for the form first mentioned and with her name thus spelt - and with a fine figurehead representing a knight in armour - a lovely vessel went to the trade of carrying tea from China.

The splendid Sir Lancelot, built by Robert Steele and Co. of Greenock and launched in July 1865 for service in the China trade was typical of all of Steele's ships, celebrated for their beauty of model, perfection of build, superb finish. Figureheads of character and deck fittings of teak and brass inlay being especially notable.
Her first master McDougall was a failure and was dismissed on the ship's return from her maiden voyage and McCunn was fortunate enough in persuading Captain Richard Robinson to leave the Fiery Cross to take charge of his new clipper.
In a letter to historian Basil Lubbock, McCunn wrote; 'Robinson was the best man I ever had in any ship and knew he got the best racing results out of Sir Lancelot'.
Her famous record passage was in 1869 leaving Foochow and after 336 miles in the Indian Ocean, and off the Cape she caught up with Spindrift. The Lizard was passed on the on the 85th day after leaving Pagodan Anchorage and Dunganess on the 87th. This was without a doubt the best ever passage between China and England. Thermopylae and Titania made passages of 91 days from Foochow and 98 days from Shanghai respectively in the same year.

Maintaining her remarkable performances, now under Captain Edmonds (Robinson having left after the sudden death of his wife) the Sir Lancelot went out to Hong Kong in 97 days in 1869 and came home from Foochow in 104 days, but now that the Suez Canal was open, racing between the clippers had lost their real significance and ships concentrated on passages to New York, the best of these in 1877-78 in 95 days.

In 1886 Sir Lancelot was bought by the Parsee merchant Visram Ibrahim who placed the experienced Eurasian master C.W.Brebner in command. He kept her like a yacht while in the India to Mauritius trade and it was in 1892 that a correspondent in The Times recalled having been in Mauritius Harbour when she 'came stealing in like a ghost from the past'

Captain Brebner survived four cyclones in Sir Lancelot before she was sold to Persian owners in 1895 and in that same year foundered on 1st October in a hurricane off the Sand Heads, Calcutta, deeply laden with salt from the Red Sea.

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Built by; Robert Steele & Co. 1865

Length; 195 feet

Beam; 34 feet

Depth; 21 feet

GRT;886 Tons

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Many thanks to Andy Vincent Byers for alerting me to the following link ;

Model of Sir Lancelot

where more information and pictures appear.

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