Many will remember the pictures of tea clipper Cutty Sark going up in flames last year. Her restoration has been part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and now further assured with a grant of £3.3 million from shipping magnate Sammy Ofer. 16 million people have visited the Cutty Sark since she opened to the public in 1957.
This is the second major contribution to British maritime heritage by Mr Ofer, who in March donated £20 million to the National Maritime Museum.
Once the replica HMS Beagle is built and launched, young people who have become fascinated with ships and the sea by visiting static (though still wonderful) vessels such as Cutty Sark or HMS Victory or seen the displays in the National Maritime Museum will be able to visit the rebuilt HMS Beagle in port, sail on her as voyage crew, to feel the heave of a living deck under their feet and follow her voyages, exploration and science work online. For an island nation with a rich maritime heritage we are woefully lacking in working examples of the square riggers which assured our trade and defended our shores (an assailed the shores and fleets of others, now our friends).
And for Britain to build a living, sailing square rigger, we too need donations. In 1820 the original was built at a cost of £7,803. The modern rebuild will cost rather more: £5 million. But the chance to sail the replica HMS Beagle around the Galapagos and endow a ship which will work in scientific and environmental outreach? Priceless. Contact us to donate or discuss sponsorship.