Royal Clipper: The World’s Largest Sailing Ship

Royal Clipper sailing the Mediterranean

21st November 2003.
By David McCreary

Photos courtesy Star Clippers

Photos courtesy Star Clippers

It’s been 80 years since a five-masted full-rigged ship sailed the seas. A full-rigged ship is a ship that has at least three square sails on each of at least three masts. The Preussen, built in 1902 and the flagship of the Flying P shipping line in Germany, was lost in 1910 in an English Channel collision with a steamer. The world had never seen a five-masted full-rigged ship before the Preussen, and it hadn’t seen another until the spring of 2000 when the Royal Clipper was launched in Rotterdam. Nearly a century after it was built, the Preussen has a sister ship.

Photos courtesy Star Clippers

Photos courtesy Star Clippers

The Royal Clipper is the flagship of the Star Clippers cruise line and is the largest true sailing ship in the world, according to the authoritative Lloyd’s List. It is fully 12 meters longer than the previous record holder, the Russian-owned sail training vessel Sedov. It is 439 feet long with a beam of 54 feet. Its five masts are 197 feet high and carry 42 sails totalling 56,000 square feet.

Photos courtesy Star Clippers

Photos courtesy Star Clippers

The Royal Clipper is more than simply based on the Preussen, its hull and mast dimensions are nearly identical. The Captain and crew have at their disposal the most modern of electronics, but they still take sextant readings each morning and evening. Classes are available to passengers on celestial navigation, rope handling and sail handling. Lectures are given on the history of shipbuilding, tall ships and oceanography by on-board experts. The more daring passengers are allowed (while in a safety harness) to climb up to a yardarm and handle sails.

Photos courtesy Star Clippers

Photos courtesy Star Clippers

The level of comfort and amenities aboard the Royal Clipper surpasses anything dreamed of by the crew of the Preussen. A three-deck center atrium brings sunlight down into the central piano bar. Another three decks down is a dining room that can seat 250. The most unique feature of the boat, however, is all the way at the bottom: the Captain Nemo Lounge, where huge glass portholes provide a view of the ocean floor and of sealife. There are spotlights to illuminate the sea floor at night when the boat is at anchor.

There is also a watersports platform at the stern, crow’s nest lookout platforms and two “tenders” that can carry 150 people at a time. Hitting the beach in style is also no problem, as there are two landing craft with drop bows that can each hold 60 people.

On deck are three swimming pools, an observation lounge and 90 square feet of deck per passenger. All the cabins have TVs and VCRs, satellite phones, and a private bath with shower. First-class cabins are 255 square feet and there are two “owners suites” of 320 square feet that can be joined to accomodate a total of eight guests.

The Preussen was the fastest clipper ship ever built and carried cargo between Chile and Germany from 1902, until its sinking in 1910, making and breaking many records for speed. The Royal Clipper is even faster, hitting 20 knots or more off the wind, with just a 5-degree heel angle. Anti-heeling tanks are filled with 160 tons of water and can be moved from side to side. This is essential of course, in preventing champagne from sloshing out of the passengers’ glasses.

Photos courtesy Star Clippers

Photos courtesy Star Clippers

The Royal Clipper’s construction was the dream of Star Clipper Lines’ owner, Swedish businessman Mikael Krafft, who built the Star Clipper and Star Flyer to satisfy world demand for sailing ship holidays. The Royal Clipper carries 228 passengers and a crew of 106. It was outfitted at the Merwede yard in Rotterdam and completed sea trials (with Lloyd’s representatives on board) in mid-June of 2000.

Bookings are available through many travel agents, or you can contact Star Clippers’ office in Monaco at +1 377 97978410, fax +1 377 97978411, email s.market@starclippers-ltd.mc.

The Royal Clipper has its own website of course, at www.star-clippers.com/rc.htm.


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