The crew at the wheel of windjammer Passat (photograph by third officer Holger Thesleff supplied by NMMC)
King Neptune and his court onboard Passat (photo taken by Holger Thesleff and supplied by the NMMC); Passat sailing from Falmouth in July 1939
National Maritime Museum Cornwall curators are celebrating the final days of commercial square-rigged sailing ships with an autumn exhibition timed to mark 60 years since the last windjammer cargo ship taking part in a ‘grain race’ rounded Cape Horn.
In the early 20th century the British public gambled on which ship carrying grain from Australia to Europe would make the fastest trip of the year in what were called the grain races. At the time, this was one of only a few trade routes that remained viable for the world’s big sailing vessels.
The exhibition, which is to appear at 12 museums across the globe during 2009, includes a range of original objects from the ships, stunning photographs and a detailed account of that final voyage. The NMMC’s exhibition will also include the photographs by Geoffrey Robertshaw, who recorded life on board the windjammers during journeys between Australia and Falmouth. His personal logbooks, photographs and personal possessions have kindly been lent to the NMMC by Elvin Carter of Devoran.
Farewell to Sails opens on 1 September and runs until the 26 November at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth.
On Monday 7 September Elvin Carter will be giving an illustrated lecture at the Maritime Museum about Geoffrey Robertshaw’s remarkable life aboard the windjammers.
PS… If you haven’t read it, Eric Newby’s book The Last Great Grain Race describes one of these voyages superbly.
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