Cutty Sark Rises Again After £50m Restoration

Michelle Clifford, senior news correspondent

The Queen will relaunch the world famous Cutty Sark later, five years after a major fire nearly destroyed the vessel.

The icon of British maritime history will open to the public after the £50m restoration of the world's last surviving tea clipper.

"It's been blood sweat and tears," said Richard Doughty who, as director of the Cutty Sark Trust , has been involved in every step of the huge project.

"It really has been a rollercoaster. But the great survivor Cutty Sark survived that fire," he said.

"I remember the fire chief calling me that day and saying the ship was alight from stem to stern. Not only have we been able to bring her back but we have saved so much of the original timber, the original features."

Luckily, at the time of the fire in 2007, the restoration work was already under way which meant around 50% of the ship had been removed.

"The damage could have been a lot worse," Mr Doughty told Sky News. He reflects now on how the blaze turned out to be a blessing in disguise - triggering an outpouring of donations.

Every inch of what was left of the 143-year-old vessel has been painstakingly put back together in Greenwich, London. At every turn her history is reflected.

Launched in 1869 from Dumbarton in Scotland, the Cutty Sark visited most ports around the world, transporting everything from fine teas to gunpowder, whisky to buffalo horns.

She made her name as the fastest ship of her era during her time in the wool trade.

In an amazing feat of engineering the Cutty Sark has been raised 11ft in the air.

Visitors can walk underneath the vessel and view the lines of her hull and the innovative design which enabled her to reach the record speed of 20mph from Sydney to London.

The restoration is a source of fierce local pride according to Bill Edgerley, a volunteer with the Cutty Sark Trust.

"She represents something special. This is a memorial to the merchant seamen. To lose the ship would have been to diminish that memory," he said.

And he added that local people are hugely passionate about the ship: "Everyone is so excited. They really feel it is part of their history."

Today, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, who campaigned to get the Cutty Sark brought to Greenwich back in the 1950s, will relaunch the vessel.

The event will open a new chapter in the extraordinary life of this ship.