2009 – Where’s the Tea on The Tea Route?

If  You Are Racing the “Tea Route” – Take Some Tea! –  copyright Peter Marsh

About that new Tea Route record: like many sailing fans, I have followed Lionel Lemonchois and the crew of Gitana 13 on their stop-and-go voyage around the world. I think it is wonderful that a big sponsored boat has finally gone around the world on a different route and actually had the panache to break minor records, stop in exotic ports, and generally enjoy the sights!(Mon dieu, next they will be demanding real food and wine on board instead of freeze-dried gruel and instant coffee!)

Well, I hate to be the curmudgeon, BUT, the mention of their drink of choice reminds me of a small but significant error I spotted that regrettably cancels out their entire magnificent six-week effort. The Gitana team always referred to this course as the “Tea Route,” yet there was no mention of taking so much as a single tea bag on board the catamaran in China. Amongst all those progress reports – no mention of a single cuppa warming the crew on a cold night…

It so happens that I grew up in Greenwich, close to the Cutty Sark, and was ‘steeped’ (if you ‘ll forgive the pun) in the history of the tea clippers, where the first ship home got the best price for its cargo. I’m sorry to say this, but you can’t race the ‘Tea Route’ without any tea on board! Personally, I think carrying anything less than a chest of tea is unacceptable, but some might set the minimum at 1,000 tea bags – enough for 2 1/2 cups per man per day.

Yes, Gitana 13 set a new record from Hong Kong to London, but no, they didn’t break the Tea Clipper record. The only civilized way to run a modern ‘Tea Race’ is with a ceremonial presentation of Chinese tea to the yacht at the start and its acceptance by a welcoming committee in London at the finish.

English tea-drinking sailors should unite: the fastest catamaran in the world, the 120′ Orange II, is for sale. We must find a tea company with the nerve and the money to fund a race along the Tea Route that respects the tradition of the tea clippers. I’m sure the tea that has been specially packed and carried from China by a modern clipper will fetch a premium in Britain and might even make a profit on the whole venture!

A response on Scuttlebutt Europe:  A couple of years ago the trimaran Great America made the dash from Hong Kong to New York (and set a new record in the process). A box of tea was presented to the crew at a ceremony at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, so presumably Mr Marsh will be happy that the HK-NY record is indeed a Tea Route record. (Editor)   Can you Race the Tea Route Without Carrying Any Tea?   (Sail World)

About seamarsh

Still trying to find the answers to life's nautical questions.
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