A History of Wind Sailing

10th December 2014

Royal Clipper

You may have embarked on journeys with huge cruise ships which boast glitzy theatres, elegant restaurants, climbing walls and designer label shops. But you won’t find any of that on board a Star Clippers cruise ship. You will be embarking on a vessel which offers something far greater than a never ending list of on board amenities. This wind sailing experience will take you on a voyage of the history of sailing – learning about the clipper ship’s role in sailing throughout time.

A lot has changed since clipper ships of the 19th century and the Star Clippers of today allow cruise passengers to enjoy the sailing experience of the past whilst visiting a number of glorious and exotic locations.


It is worth noting that the Royal Clipper is only the world’s second five-mast rigger and, in 2000, became the first five-mast ship to be built in 98 years. The first ship of its kind was the Preussen and those who saw it were rendered speechless. Owner of Star Clippers, Mikael Krafft grew up with a love for sailing and after seeing the film Windjammer, dubbed the “cinemiracle”, in 1958 he was inspired to operate his own set of clipper ships.

A lot has changed from the industrial and war-time journeys that historical clipper ships once embarked upon. The Star Clipper ships of today boast modern features, safety procedures and a faster method of travel.

In the past, the sailing ropes were generally made up of hemp – with several layers of thickness depending on where you were travelling. The thickest canvas would be used when sailing around Cape Horn, whilst thinner materials were used when sailing the gentle winds of the equator. Today though, the sails are made up of polyester fibres which retain their shape and are not spoiled by moisture. Unfortunately, maintenance and the repairing of sails whilst on board is a long and enduring task.

Capstans were once used on board clipper ships for weighing anchor and hoisting heavy sails. Many people were required to turn the capstan and in the late 1880’s small steam engines were introduced to reduce crew size. Today, electrical winches are used but still require many metres of rope and crew members must have an extensive knowledge of knot-tying.

The smooth transition across the Atlantic Ocean on board a Star Clippers cruise ship today takes about two weeks – thanks to modern array of features and a knowledgeable crew. This was not always the case, however, and clippers ships would travel for three to four months without entering a port. Everything had to be managed by the ship’s crew including the repairing of rigging and the hull.

So although the historical sailing experience may remain the same today as it was throughout the 19th century, many modern amendments have been made. Today, you can enjoy the experience shared by sailors of the 19th century on board one of three clipper ships: the five-mast Royal Clipper, Star Clipper and Star Flyer. Most itineraries allow travellers to also participate in a number of water sports including: kayaking, wind surfing, snorkelling and swimming. Embark on a Star Clippers cruise and experience an adventure on the seas like no other.

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UK and Eire passengers please contact Fred. Olsen Travel, the General Sales Agent for Star Clippers or any ABTA Travel Agent.

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday - 9:00am to 6.00pm
Saturday - 9:00am to 4:00pm
Sunday - Closed