Since 1897 Britain had lost the Blue Riband
Award, given to the ship that achieved the fastest crossing of the North
Atlantic, to Germany and with it national pride.
The ailing Cunard line, which was then the only completely British owned passenger shipping company, approached the British Government with a plan to build two new ships which would be the biggest and fastest and most luxurious liners of their time. Cunard required a loan of £2.5 million payable over 20 years which was granted with the provision that the 2 ships would be built to certain Admiralty specifications including all important machinery to be installed below the waterline to afford protection from gunfire, provision for the installation of 6-inch guns on her decks and converting compartments to magazines for storing shells and a top speed of 25 knots.
To achieve this speed she was to be fitted with huge steam turbines developing 68,000 horse power run from 24 boilers. These turbines would drive 4 propellers which was double that of any other liner at that time. She would carry over 2,000 passengers and 850 crew.
The contract to build Lusitania went to the John Brown shipyard in Glasgow and her keel was laid down in June 1904 and when she was launched in June 1906 she was the biggest and most luxurious ship afloat.
During sea trials it was found that at her top speed of 25 knots she suffered hugely from vibration, so much so that it made the second class accommodation unusable. This was deemed to be the result of interference the wake of the outer propellers and the inner propellers. To mitigate this vibration extra stiffening was added and the propellers changed to a larger size and different pitch which reduced the vibration but did not entirely get rid of it.
Lusitania commenced her first voyage from Liverpool to New York at 9pm on 7th September 1907 and after stopping at Queenstown(Cobh) arrived in New York at 9.05am on Friday 13th September, just 30 minutes outside the Blue Riband record. On her return journey she was delayed by fog and failed to break the record. On her second voyage she took the Blue Riband in 4 days, 19 hours and 53 minutes.
For an extensive history of the Lusitania see www.lusitania.net