'Cutty Sark' goes up in the world

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's best-preserved maritime treasures has been hoisted more than 10 feet into the air.

The Cutty Sark, the world's only surviving tea clipper, was lifted about 11ft 6in above the bottom of its dry berth in Greenwich, south east London.

The space under the three-masted ship will be home to an interactive museum where visitors can learn about its history.

It was a triumphant moment in the history of the 19th-century sailing ship, which has been undergoing extensive renovation work since being ravaged by fire in 2007.

Richard Doughty, chief executive of the Cutty Sark Trust, said the process of lifting the clipper - which was completed over three days - was essentially like jacking a car to fit a new tyre.

"What made the Cutty Sark famous was her speed and that was achieved by her refined hull shape - that is what made her an icon of speed under sail - and now visitors will be able to see the hull for the first time," said Mr Doughty.

"It is an extraordinary sight to see this huge elegant ship suspended above your head.

"It really is a beauty to see the ship suspended in this way. It is like it is hung from sky hooks when you're down there."

He said the hull is suspended from 12 cantilevered arms on a concrete beam running along the sides of the dry berth.

Mr Doughty said: "This is a real iconic moment in this project.

"It really is an engineering triumph and I think it will set a new benchmark of how historic ships are preserved from now on."

The ship was devastated by a huge blaze in May 2007.

The fire, which caused £10 million-worth of damage, was sparked by an industrial vacuum cleaner accidentally left switched on for two days.

The tea clipper was severely damaged in the fire, which burned through each of the ship's three decks, but fortunately almost 50 per cent of the ship had been removed during the conservation work.

The ship, one of the capital's best-loved tourist attractions, will be reopened to the public next spring.