Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark is an amazing sailing ship. At the time it was of cutting edge design and was the fastest sailing ship in the world.

There is a great deal of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths we can learn by studying Cutty Sark and outlined below is a basic topic web relating to key areas of learning associated with it.

There’s a lot more to be added but this is a good starting point.


Cutty Sark was built in 1869 and carried tea from China to Britain

Cutty Sark topic web pic02

This photograph shows a model hull section of Cutty Sark floating in water.

It is carrying marbles as ballast in the lowest part of the vessel, the keel.

The blocks represent tea chests of various sizes all packed in as neatly as possible so they can’t move about even in a rough sea.

Click the picture for a video clip explaining how this method of loading kept her safely balanced during her famous tea trade voyages.

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Example practical activities

Measuring and calculating volumes of liquids

Measuring and calculating volumes of cuboids to represent tea chests and investigating packing them into a limited space.

Using a hull section to investigate:

  • displacement of water
  • floating
  • buoyancy
  • balance

Using model land yachts and/or sailing yachts to investigate:

  • forces and motion
  • number and area of sail and speed of motion
  • direction of wind on sails
  • hull shape and streamlining

Below is a collection of pictures from Cutty Sark in Greenwich as well as others relating to the tea trade

tea chests stacked D9586[1]
sark chest decorated
loading tea pic
depth marks

Making and experimenting with land yachts is a great way to learn about the power of the wind.

These simple models can be blown along outdoors by a light breeze or indoors using a normal desk fan.

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mini yacht000103

Land yachts can be used to investigate relationships in science eg. How does the size, shape or number of sails affect the speed of the yacht? Or, does the angle of the wind against the sail make a difference?

You can also find out the answer to the question “how can a ship sail against the wind?”

These wooden land yachts are more stable than the lightweight foam models. They can travel at amazing speeds in a light breeze. If you make one like this then be prepared to chase after it and take care not to run it near a road! See ‘boxed kits’ pages.

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More information to be added in time.
Please get in touch if you have any ideas or questions about the amazing Cutty Sark.

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