In August the famous Colin Archer ketch Christiania, won both handicap and line honours in the Tall Ships Race, an unprecedented double victory made all the more remarkable by the fact that the 12.10 metre former Norwegian rescue vessel, built in 1895, was also the oldest vessel in the entire fleet.

The international fleet raced through challenging conditions in the North Sea with stops at four historic port cities: Esbjerg in Denmark, Harlingen in the Netherlands, Antwerp in Belgium to finish in Aalborg, Denmark.

Christiania (the old name for the Norwegian capital Oslo) won convincingly. She is one of the most famous vessels in all of Norway, not least because she opened up during a routine North Sea passage in 2017 and sank in 500 metres of water.

The Petersen family, who have owned her for more than 20 years, set about her recovery. Through connections in the Norwegian oil industry they chartered a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and managed to locate the cutter on the seabed. The brave little ship was found sitting upright on the muddy bottom with her hull and rig intact. After 18 months of planning the Petersens were able to return with an oil exploration ship to raise Christiana from the seabed.

With the boat out of the water the cause of the leak was revealed. One of the mast step supports had been constructed from two pieces of wood, rather than out of a single piece as specified by Colin Archer. In time it had worked loose and acted like a wedge, forcing the garboard planks open. A 12 month restoration programme followed during which 30 per cent of the hull structure was replaced.

Christiania is one of only three Mk1 Rescue Vessels built to the original lines submitted by Colin Archer to the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue in 1891. During the course of her 37 year career she went to the assistance of 2,881 vessels, saved 90 ships from shipwreck and rescued 257 people from certain death – a record only bettered by her sister ship, the Oscar Tybring.

Bruce Stannard