Author Topic: The 1970s fuel crisis - why didn't they slow QE2 down?  (Read 1258 times)

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Offline Rob Lightbody

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Interesting thing on this video where they discuss the steeply rising cost of fuel impacting QE2, and how much longer can they afford to run her like this.

At no point do they discuss the option of slowing her down, which would have had reduced the fuel bill.  Why not?  The planes had already taken all the people who were in a rush.


(there is a separate discussion topic for these Thames programmes - https://www.theqe2story.com/forum/index.php?topic=8972.0
Passionate about QE2's service life for 40 years and creator of this website.  I have worked in IT for 28 years and created my personal QE2 website in 1994.

Offline Michael Gallagher

Re: The 1970s fuel crisis - why didn't they slow QE2 down?
« Reply #1 on: Dec 26, 2023, 10:20 AM »
Merry Christmas, Rob!

Periodically throughout the 1970s Cunard did explore slowing her down and actually introduced a six-day crossing schedule for 1972 but that lasted for the year because it deterred businessmen travelling. This was a market Cunard was keen to exploit as a relaxing alternative to flying but that needed to promise the businessman only a minimum working days would be lost - promotions such as "the long weekend", "fly one way free" and "take your wife free" were all designed to promote QE2 as a true alternative but they needed a five day crossing.

The departure of France in 1974 also had a bearing of QE2 maintaining the fast Atlantic crossing in order to attract France's clientele.

And while fuel may have been saved their was strong objection from the crew for a longer crossing (highly unionised so best not to rock the boat) and, while a longer crossing would allow Cunard to charge higher fares, the market throughout the 1970s would not tolerate higher fares which would only deter people so I guess Cunard thought it was easier to keep throwing her across the Atlantic at high speeds as their would be too much of a knock-on effect if they extended the crossing length.

She was eventually slowed down to six-days in 1997.

Cunard today are missing a trick - sending QM2 across in five days as a one-off would make it the fastest Atlantic crossing of the 21st Century. I'm no marketeer but surely they'd fill that at a premium which would more than cover the extra fuel cost. Question is - is she capable of five days crossings now?

Michael
« Last Edit: Dec 26, 2023, 10:23 AM by Michael Gallagher »

Offline Peter Mugridge

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Re: The 1970s fuel crisis - why didn't they slow QE2 down?
« Reply #2 on: Dec 26, 2023, 09:48 PM »
...so best not to rock the boat...

I see what you did there...  ;D
"It is a capital mistake to allow any mechanical object to realise that you are in a hurry!"

Online Isabelle Prondzynski

Re: The 1970s fuel crisis - why didn't they slow QE2 down?
« Reply #3 on: Dec 28, 2023, 08:45 AM »
Cunard today are missing a trick - sending QM2 across in five days as a one-off would make it the fastest Atlantic crossing of the 21st Century. I'm no marketeer but surely they'd fill that at a premium which would more than cover the extra fuel cost. Question is - is she capable of five days crossings now?

Thank you, Michael, for that very comprehensive explanation, which makes all-round sense.

And you are right -- why not do the occasional 5-day dash across the Atlantic at premium fares as a special event, just to show that QM2 can do it (provided she can...)!

Offline Barumfox

Re: The 1970s fuel crisis - why didn't they slow QE2 down?
« Reply #4 on: Dec 28, 2023, 01:38 PM »
The question - if QM2 was still capable of maintaining 28-29 kts for five days - would be what is the current 21st century record and would you look at elapsed time or pure speed as the key element between two fixed points - say Sandy Hook and Bishops Rock?

Many of the old record breakers seemed to record their highest average speeds eastbound (e.g. United States, Queen Mary, first Mauretania)  although there are probably other reasons for this - however as eastbound days would be around 23 hours on average and westbound 25 hours the longest day's runs would have been on 'slower' westbound crossings.

I believe in order to be financially viable at all a  normal morning docking / turnaround afterwards would be needed and therefore a westbound crossings with 25 hour days is probable the only possibility as 23 hour days would require a speed higher than QM2 was ever capable of.

As far as I am aware the fastest current crossing speed ( unless QE2 did any at her original schedule speed after the millennium which I am not aware of) would probably have to be the QM2's maiden eastbound crossing  / first tandem with QE2 which after a delayed departure for fireworks at New York saw the ships only 18 miles west of Bishops Rock at noon on the fifth day after averaging 28 knots up to this point and were still doing 28.5 knots at that point in order to make an appointment with a RAF Nimrod and Hawk plus a publicity helicopter off Cornwall that afternoon. After this fog closed in and the ships arrived in Southampton on the 6th morning as normal at that time after toddling round in the Channel for hours.

If the ships had left New York at 5pm instead they would probably have been passing Bishops Rock at around 6 or 7am that morning with still a number of hours needed to navigate a busy channel up to Southampton and therefore a mid / late  afternoon arrival would have been the earliest possible with logistical issues if trying to dock / disembark passengers - or let them stay the night on board.

A Westbound crossing with an extra 8 hours over 4 days allowing a potential fifth morning arrival therefore seems to be the only viable option - and then of course the cooperation of the Atlantic would be needed in order to provide weather that would mean no need to slow down for safety reasons - otherwise the best laid plans...

A moot point now but I was wondering at the time if the QE2 could have beaten the Queen Mary's best days run in either direction - setting a Cunard record - certainly an effort could have been manufactured on that first tandem crossing if the elements were cooperating and would have provided additional excitement - although not needed. It would however  have meant QE2 in her last voyage as flagship stealing QM2's thunder on her maiden voyage and revealing the true gap in their speed capabilities - I certainly suspect Ian McNaught would have been up for it though!

Regards

Gary

Offline Rob Lightbody

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Re: The 1970s fuel crisis - why didn't they slow QE2 down?
« Reply #5 on: Dec 29, 2023, 06:19 PM »
Michael,

Thanks for your brilliant reply!  I had no idea they'd slowed her down in 1972.  Is it recorded how much fuel this saved them?

I ran an abstract (attached) for the voyage of 16th April 1972 and it shows just what you said - an extra day and an average speed of "only" 21.5 knots.

https://qe2abstractlog.com/abstract?from=19720416&to=19720423

An occasional "express" QM2 crossing would be a unique offering, thats for sure... the 7 nights certainly feels quite leisurely.

Passionate about QE2's service life for 40 years and creator of this website.  I have worked in IT for 28 years and created my personal QE2 website in 1994.

Offline Twynkle

Re: The 1970s fuel crisis - why didn't they slow QE2 down?
« Reply #6 on: Dec 30, 2023, 09:44 PM »
Hi Michael and Rob

Yes a brilliant trick might well have been missed....

From the Cunard website:

Queen Mary 2's 400th Transatlantic Crossing
Experience a historic anniversary on Queen Mary 2 as she sails her 400th Transatlantic Crossing, having sailed her first 20 years ago in 2004 on her maiden voyage.
https://www.cunard.com/en-gb/cruise-types/event-cruises/qm2-400th-transatlantic-crossing

 

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