THE fight to bring an historic Sunderland ship home is entering its final stages, say campaigners.
The City of Adelaide has been at the Scottish Maritime Museum since it was recovered from the bottom of the River Clyde, in Glasgow, in the early 1990s, but the museum has been unable to raise funds to pay for restoration and can no longer afford to keep her.
Sunderland City of Adelaide Recovery Foundation (Scarf) has fought for years to bring the Wear-built clipper back to Wearside from its resting place in Irvine.
A rival team from Adelaide, in Australia, wants to transport the vessel to her namesake city.
Now the row is set to be played out in the courts after Scarf launched a legal challenge to the first stage of the ship’s export.
The group will ask the Scottish Court of Session to stop the transfer of the old ship’s rudder to Adelaide.
The Australian team has accused Scarf of sour grapes after the Scottish government ruled in favour of its proposal.
Spokesman Peter Roberts said: “The Scottish government went through an exhaustive process where they looked at the relative technical and financial merits of the Sunderland bid and the South Australian bid and determined the Australian bid was far superior.”
The Australian team has also pointed to the fact that the rudder is not the original built in Sunderland but a replacement made in Adelaide after the original was lost in a storm in 1877.
But Scarf are adamant the rudder is a fundamental part of the ship and have vowed to fight its transfer to Australia.
“We have sabre-rattled several times in the past, but this time it is for real,” said company secretary Alan Walton.
“We have a Scottish barrister we are going to see over the next few days and we are on the verge of issuing court proceeding to stop the rudder leaving the country.
“This is a matter of absolute principle.”
Scarf had proof the rudder had been attached to the Adelaide at the time it was made a listed building, said Mr Walton.
“This is a vital battle for Scarf,” he said.
“If we win it, we win the ship – it is that important.”
The battle for the Adelaide made national headlines when Scarf chairman Peter Maddison staged a 28-day sit-in on the vessel.
Mr Maddison said claims the Adelaide would be shipped to Australia next month were wide of the mark.
“The last time I was up there, about 10 days ago, the cradle itself was starting to rust,” he said. “There is not going to be an October sailing.
“The reason the Australians are so frantically trying to get the rudder out of the country is so they can stabilise falling support in Australia.
“They need to be able to produce something that makes it look like things are happening form them.”