It was the first steamboat race from the UK to the United States of America. The ships Sirius and Great Western competed against each other. The Sirius was a small, older coastal post ship, refurbished and upgraded for the competition. The Great Western had the latest technologies of the day: two steam engines each 400 hp, 210 feet (70 meters) long – the biggest steam boat of the world. With cabins, service stewards and a restaurant on board, the Great Western is considered the first cruise ship in history.
The naval architects behind both ships were convinced that their ships could travel the Atlantic within the given constraint of the coal provision. The Sirius started on April 4th 1838 and a couple of days later the Great Western started it’s chase. The much bigger “Great Western” was never in risk of running out of coal, but the small Sirius actually was. The Great Western was catching up and the captain of the Sirus took a decision. They started to burn everything onboard made of wood (including furniture and the mast of the ship). It was this story in fact, which inspired Jules Verne to write one of the most infamous scenes in his novel “Around the world in 80 days”.
The much smaller Sirius was able to keep retain her position and reached New York first – after a 18 day journey over the Atlantic ocean. Technically, the Great Western needed only 15 days. That’s why both ships were perceived as winners and got the Blue Ribbon for the fastest Atlantic crossing.
Over decades British ship’s owner competed over this famous Blue Ribbon. Also the RMS Titanic was one of the combatants – with sadly and famously known results in 1909.
The era of the Blue Ribbon ended in 1952 with the United States: the last steam boat entering this challenge. It took her only 3.5 days to travel the 3.700 miles (6,000 kilometers).
This summer the biggest cruise ship in the world, the Oasis of the Seas, will cross the Atlantic for the first time ever with guests on board. Using cruise oil, it will take her 10 days from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Malaga, Spain covering 4.500 miles (7.200 Kilometers). It’s obviously not competing in a race, as we have seen faster results already…