- The Washington Times - Monday, May 21, 2007

11:46 a.m.

GREENWICH, England (AP) — A spectacular fire caused heavy damage to the clipper ship Cutty Sark today, adding millions to the cost of restoring one of London’s proudest maritime relics.

The cause of the blaze was under investigation, but within hours, officials responsible for the graceful 19th-century sailing ship said they were determined to carry on with a four-year restoration project.

“We’re going to redouble our efforts to ensure that the ship is open, available, back and running in the future,” said Chris Livett, chairman of Cutty Sark Enterprises, responsible for restoring the world’s only surviving tea clipper.

“I think when we finish with this project, she will be better than she was … in a complete state a year ago,” Mr. Livett told reporters.

Firefighters responded to an early-morning alarm at the ship’s dry dock. The flames were out about two hours later.

“At the moment, we are treating the fire as suspicious, as we would do any fire of this scale and importance,” police Inspector Bruce Middlemiss said.

The ship is the world’s only surviving example of an extreme clipper, regarded as the ultimate development of a merchant sailing vessel. Most of the original hull had survived since the ship was built for the tea trade of the 1800s.

Cutty Sark had been closed to visitors since last year for a $50 million renovation.

The leaders of the restoration project said the damage was not as bad as they had feared.

“I’m relieved. I came here thinking the ship had gone on her last journey,” said Richard Doughty, chief executive of the Cutty Sark Trust.

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