Our website uses cookies so that we can provide a better service. Continue to use the site as normal if you're happy with this, or find out how to manage cookies.


Cutty Sark and Greenwich University win double prizes

Computer scientists at the University of Greenwich working with the Cutty Sark Trust have won the top prize at the London Knowledge Transfer Awards. Their pioneering partnership uses sophisticated computer models to determine how to dismantle and reassemble the fire-damaged ship, which will open again to the public in 2010.

The project was named as Knowledge Transfer Collaboration 2008 at an awards ceremony on 5th December at the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington. It also won the Knowledge Base Collaboration Award. These new awards - run by the London Development Agency - demonstrate the benefits to business of using the expertise in universities and colleges.

Five years ago, the Cutty Sark faced a death sentence: experts predicted that the Victorian tea clipper would collapse within a decade if nothing was done. Yet the Cutty Sark Trust feared that the very act of restoration could endanger this precious icon of the nation's maritime heritage. So the Cutty Sark Trust, its custodian, called in the university to predict how the decaying wooden hull and corroded iron frame would respond to restoration.

The university's Professor Chris Bailey said: "We are applying computer modelling technology to the problem of how to restore the Cutty Sark's rotting pieces, without bringing down the entire structure. With our software, we can take the ship apart - and put it back together again - and see if it collapses. So when engineers tackle the real thing, they know that they will be going about the job in the best possible way."

Professor Bailey, and his colleague Dr Stoyan Stoyanov, are now working with the trust to understand how the Cutty Sark's structure will age over the next 100 years, and when maintenance will be required. They are developing technology that will be used on other ships too, protecting maritime heritage across the globe.

Cutty Sark's Chief Executive, Richard Doughty, commented: "Sustainability and establishing a centre of excellence are part of our mission. The university's vital work has enabled us to benefit from the considerable local talent in the university and the most valuable advancement of ship conservation knowledge. We congratulate and thank the university."

Peter Mason, Cutty Sark's Chief Engineer said: "This has been a very fruitful and enjoyable collaboration for us. First we worked on the strength of the hull. This has been followed by our current work on turning conservation into a quantifiable technology with predictable outcomes. Our next project will be very different. We want to explore why the ship was so fast. What did the designer Hercules Linton know that his peers of the time did not?"

The university's Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research & Enterprise, Professor Tom Barnes, added: "This is a fantastic example of the way in which the specialist expertise of university academics can be put to use in the wider world. The Cutty Sark is a much loved icon in the capital and I am delighted that these new awards have recognised our important work which will protect it for generations to come."