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Restoration drama

News - Project background

This week's fire broke out just as a major £25M restoration project was gathering pace. The blaze is estimated to increase project costs by at least 50%.

This extra work will be a blow for the Cutty Sark Trust which is already struggling to finance the current project.

A £13M Lottery grant and £7M of private donations have been pledged but the Trust still has to find a further £5M.

To date approximately 25% of work had been completed, Eric Kentley the lead conservation consultant for the Cutty Sark Trust told NCE.

Rigging and all fittings had been removed in preparation for restoration of the hull. Half of the timber planking had been stripped from it allowing access to the underlying wrought iron frames which give the ship her shape.

Cutty Sark has an unusual 'composite' hull, consisting of timber planking over wrought iron frames and cross-bracing.

Below the water line, the hull was sheathed with bronze alloy plates to protect against fouling by weed and barnacles.

Its construction has contributed to Cutty Sark's severe structural degradation.

Rain water that has collected within the ship's hull has been prevented from draining through its planking by the bronze sheath, causing the timber to decay.

This rainwater has also released salt impregnated into the timber, causing aggressive corrosion of the wrought iron frames onto which the planks are bolted, and which give the hull its shape.

Electrolytic corrosion has also been taking place as a result of reaction between the iron frame and bronze cladding. Corrosion caused rivets and bolts to shear.

Work was just starting on installation of an impressed current cathodic protection system to arrest corrosion of the frames.

Fears that the ship's structural safety would be jeopardised led to the launch of a plan to restore Cutty Sark in 2004.

Trials were conducted to test methods for removing planks from the hull and to see what effect removing planks would have on the structural performance of the ship and a finite element structural model of the ship was built up to aid the design of the restoration (NCE 9 September 2004).

Construction manager is Heery International, contractor is Cutty Sark Enterprises, project manager is Hornagold & Hills and structural engineer is Buro Happold.

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