Flying Cloud Clipper Ship
Flying Cloud was the most famous of the clippers built by Donald McKay. She was known for her extremely close race with the Hornet in 1853; for having a woman navigator, Eleanor Creesy, wife of Josiah Perkins Creesy who skippered the Flying Cloud on two record-setting voyages from New York to San Francisco; and for sailing in the Australia and timber trades. The Flying Cloud was a clipper ship that set the world’s sailing record for the fastest passage between New York and San Francisco, 89 days 8 hours. She held this record for over 100 years, from 1854-1989.
She was built in East Boston, Massachusetts, and intended for Enoch Train of Boston, who paid $50,000 for her construction. While still under construction, she was purchased by Grinnell, Minturn & Co., of New York, for $90,000, which represented a huge profit for Train & Co. Her length on the keel is 208 feet, on deck 225, and over all, from the knightheads to the taffrail, 235— extreme breadth of beam 41 feet, depth of hold 21½, including 7 feet 8 inches height of between-decks, sea-rise at half floor 20 inches, rounding of sides 6 inches, and sheer about 3 feet.
World record voyage to San Francisco during Gold Rush
Within six weeks of launch Flying Cloud sailed from New York and made San Francisco ’round Cape Horn in 89 days, 21 hours under the command of Captain Josiah Perkins Creesy. On 31 July, during the trip, she made 374 miles in 3 days. In 1853 she beat her own record by 13 hours, a record that stood until 1989 when the breakthrough-designed sailboat Thursday’s Child completed the passage in 80 days, 20 hours. The record was once again broken in 2008 by the French racing yacht Gitana 13, with a time of 43 days and 38 minutes.
In the early days of the California Gold Rush, it took more than 200 days for a ship to travel from New York to San Francisco, a voyage of more than 16,000 miles. The Flying Cloud’s better-than-halving that time (only 89 days) was a headline-grabbing world record that the ship itself beat three years later, setting a record that lasted for 136 years.