A 37m wooden freighter is sailing from Bordeaux to London, carrying a cargo of over 9,000 bottles of limited edition wine

A 37m wooden sailing freighter is re-creating wine history this month after undergoing a second lengthy restoration. She’s sailing from Bordeaux to London carrying a precious cargo of over 9,000 bottles of specially made, limited edition Claret from Laithwaites.

The wine carried during the voyage will be taken to Laithwaites’ flagship London store the Arch at Vinopolis, where there will be a private fine wine auction held in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.
Irene was built in 1907 by F J Carver and Son in Bridgwater. She’s the last of the West Country trading ketches still under sail, and spent 50 years as part of the fleet of British Merchant vessels spanning two World Wars and a Great Recession.
She retired from her trading service in 1960, changed hands a few times and became a house boat. In 1965 Dr Leslie Morrish spotted her, derelict in the Hamble River, and bought her for £2,500. Dr Morrish began a restoration job that lasted almost 20 years.
Then, in 2003, a fire started and raged for eight hours, consuming the whole vessel. Irene returned to Cornwall where she underwent her second lengthy restoration.
This trip from Bordeaux to London will be her first real voyage since this most recent renovation. It will be marked by waterside celebrations at the Laithwaites’ Bordeaux Winery, Le Chai au Quai, where the special Claret was made for the occasion.
“It has always been my desire to restore the commercial role of Irene,” said owner Dr Morrish. “Laithwaites have given us the opportunity to do just that by sailing a cargo of their finest wine.”
Mark Hoddy, who helped make the limited edition Claret, will join her for the entire journey and report the progress on Twitter. Tony Laithwaite, and his son Will, will join Irene in Cowes for the final leg of the journey.
When Irene reaches London, she’ll pass under Tower Bridge and moor at her ultimate destination of Butler’s Wharf.