The grain races

Finland, flag


The Penang, the L'Avenir and the Pommern at Port Lincoln
After the First World war, most of the deep sea sailing ships began to be scrapped. However, Gustaf Erikson, finnish shipowner based in Mariehamn in the Åland islands, bought some of the lasts four-masted barques.

In this time, the sail ships were still competitive against the steamers on the longer trades: the chilean nitrate and the australian wheat.

Gustaf Erikson assigned most of his fleet to the latter trade.

His ships left Europe in september and went along Africa then crossed the Indian ocean to reach Australia in december.

They went outward on ballast or with finnish timber for South Africa.

They were back in june.

After loading in the Spencer Gulf harbors, most of the ships were ready almost at the same time, which induced a competition for the faster on the homeward bound voyage to Europe by the Cape Horn.

Grain races 1921 - 1939
YearShipVoyage Length
1921 Finland, flag Marlborough Hill Port Lincoln to Cobh 91 d
1922 Finland, flag Milverton Melbourne to London 90 d
1923 Sweden, flag Beatrice Melbourne to London 88 d
1924 Germany, flag Greif Port Lincoln to Falmouth 110 d
1925 Sweden, flag Beatrice Adelaide to Falmouth 103 d
1926 Belgium, flag L'Avenir Geelong au Cap Lizard 110 d
1927 Finland, flag Herzogin Cecilie Port Lincoln to Cobh 98 d
1928 Finland, flag Herzogin Cecilie Port Lincoln to Falmouth 96 d
1929 Finland, flag Archibald Russell Melbourne to Cobh 93 d
1930 Finland, flag Pommern Wallaroo to Falmouth 105 d
1931 Finland, flag Herzogin Cecilie Wallaroo to Falmouth 93 d
1932 Finland, flag Parma
Finland, flag Pamir
Port Broughton to Falmouth
Wallaroo to Cobh
103 d
1933 Finland, flag Parma Port Victoria to Falmouth83 d
1934 Finland, flag Passat Wallaroo au Cap Lizard 106 d
1935 Germany, flag Priwall Port Victoria to Falmouth 91 d
1936 Finland, flag Herzogin Cecilie Wallaroo to Falmouth 86 d
1937 Finland, flag Pommern
Finland, flag Passat
Port Victoria to Falmouth
Port Victoria to Falmouth
94 d
1938 Finland, flag Passat Port Victoria to Falmouth 98 d
1939 Finland, flag Moshulu Port Victoria to Cobh 91 d
1946 Finland, flag Viking Port Victoria to London 93 d
1949 Finland, flag Passat Port Victoria to Falmouth 110 d
This yearly event, announced in the newspapers, became the "Grain Race".

The Archibald Russell at anchor
in Port Lincoln with the Ponape decked

The record is held by one of the former Laeisz "P-liners", the Parma with Ruben de Cloux: 83 days in 1933. Her average over five passages between 1932 and 1936 was however no lower than 115 days. The Herzogin Cecile went close to this record in 1936 during her last voyage before her wreck.

The Pamir under finnish flag circa 1934

One consider that the last meeting took place the 5-6 january 1934 where eleven square-riggers put anchor at Port Victoria. They didn't loaded all there, coming for orders, and after a few days dispersed in the harbors of the Spencer Gulf. The Lawhill only entered the St Vincent Gulf to load in Adelaide.

Port Victoria circa 1933

Grain races 1921 - 1939
Ship Length Voyages Years
Finland, flag Passat 99 d 7 1933-39
Finland, flag Pamir 102 d 7 1932-39
Finland, flag Moshulu 106 d 4 1936-39
Finland, flag Herzogin Cecilie 107 d 11 1926-36
Finland, flag Pommern 108 d 11 1929-39
Belgium, flag L'Avenir 113 d 5 1933-37
Finland, flag Ponape 114 d 7 1929-36
Finland, flag Parma 115 d 5 1932-36
Finland, flag Archibald Russell 115 d 14 1925-39
Finland, flag Viking 116 d 9 1931-39
Finland, flag Lawhill 121 d 14 1921-39
Finland, flag Killoran 125 d 10 1927-39
Finland, flag Grace Harwar 127 d 8 1921-36
Finland, flag Winterhude 133 d 8 1932-39
The last passage via Cape Horn for trade sailships took place in 1949 during the race between the Passat and the Pamir.

The Passat taken from the Pamir circa 1950

The opposite table gives average number of days (from Georg Kahre). Herzogin Cecilie's 137 days passage in 1926 increases her average which otherwise would have been 105 days.

Grain races 1921 - 1939
Less than 100 days passages
Ship Passages Years
Finland, flag Passat 100, 87, 94, 98, 98 d 1935-39
Finland, flag Pamir 92, 98, 98, 96 d 1932, 36, 37, 39
Finland, flag Herzogin Cecilie 98, 96, 93, 86 d 1927, 28, 31, 36
Finland, flag Pommern 98, 95, 94, 94 d 1933, 35-37
Finland, flag Moshulu 91 d 1939
Belgium, flag L'Avenir 95 d 1937
Finland, flag Viking 97 d 1935
Finland, flag Ponape 98, 99 d 1929, 31
Finland, flag Grace Harwar 98 d 1936
The Passat holds the best average between the two wars with 95 days for 5 passages between 1935 and 1939.

The Herzogin Cecilie loading at Wallaroo in 1934


Parma (1902)

Herzogin Cecilie (1902)

Archibald Russell (1905)

L'Avenir (1908)

Pommern (1903)

Viking (1907)

Moshulu ex Kurt (1904)

Pamir (1905)

Passat (1911)

Priwall (1918)

The Erikson's fleet

The Laeisz's fleet

The Pamir