The Queen will today brave the weather to open the newly restored Cutty Sark ship in Greenwich. The Victorian clipper was badly damaged by fire in 2007 while undergoing the early stages of restoration.
We took a tour of the vessel yesterday. The ship's golden keel and vast rigging are truly sights of wonder, and the repair work is splendid to see. Some elements of the restoration have proved controversial, however. Andrew Gilligan recently wrote a scathing critique, damning the internal lifts, air conditioning, surrounding glass canopy and the metal supports that raise the ship above the basement floor.
While we can't argue with some of his points (the external entrance box is almost objectively ugly), we have to disagree with his strong words about the overall experience. Viewed from underneath, the ship and glass canopy are astonishing. This is a vast improvement on the sorry looking clipper, marooned in a shabby dry dock, that we knew before the restoration and fire.
Meanwhile the three decks are all tastefully restored and include some genuinely interesting exhibits (though, oddly, not a mention of the disastrous fire). We particularly enjoyed steering a computerised Sark round the world's trade winds in a race against the clock. The dedicated contrarian could certainly find aspects to lambast, but the typical visitor will emerge with a grin. The restoration also improves the ship's ability to host private events, which should secure its financial future.
You can visit the vessel, now under the auspices of Royal Museums Greenwich, from tomorrow to judge for yourself. Ticket information is exceptionally well buried on the website, but we finally discovered that it's £12 for adults, £6.50 for children, with various family discount packages available.
See more photos of the Cutty Sark from our previous visit.