How Mikael Krafft’s dream became a reality

22nd September 2016

Clipper Ship Oil Painting

The cruising industry in the 21st century offers a multitude of options, with huge vessels boasting the modern amenities and facilities. Sometimes, however, it is worth taking a step back in time to appreciate how different things were. This was Mikael Krafft’s philosophy and his dream was to bring traditional tall ship sailing into the 21st century. Star Clippers takes a closer look at the life and inspiration of Mikael Krafft and how his passion influenced him.

In 1946, Mikael Krafft was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and was fortunate enough to grow up just around the corner from one of the finest yacht builders in the world. The Plyms Shipyard intrigued Mikael and ultimately led to the start of his passion for sailing. At just six years old, he was able to secure a job at the shipyard and, while carrying varnish and mixing wood stain, he learnt about Pommern, a four-masted steel barquentine which was docked at the Swedish-Finnish island of Aland. At a time when steam-powered vessels dominated the seas, it was at this point that Mikael was inspired by the world of traditional sailing vessels.

His excitement reached new heights at the age of ten when his father presented him with an 18-foot wooden sailboat. It wasn’t long after that that Mikael embarked on a series of 20-mile journeys across the open sea, without a compass and unknown to his parents, simply to visit the masterpiece that was Pommern. One day, not content with merely looking at the ship, a 12-year-old Mikael climbed up the rigging without permission and was caught by a guard.

The guard yelled: “Come on down!!! If you don’t, you’ll fall down and kill yourself. But I’ll kill you anyway when you come down.” Luckily, he survived to tell this tale and dreamed of one day owning such a vessel of his own.

Mikael Krafft later graduated from the University of Stockholm with a degree in Maritime Law, before practicing law in France and Sweden. In the 1970’s, he was appointed as manager of L. Jeansson Co., a small Swedish shipping company founded in 1875. Under Krafft, the company expanded into oil storage, forestry, sawmills, finance/leasing, and real estate – which he pursued further upon moving to Brussels with his family in 1986. He sold his interests in Sweden and founded the White Star Group of Belgium, which focussed on real estate developments in the Benelux countries.

The dream seemed all but over. Yet, Krafft never did let go of his passion for sailing. While sailing in the Caribbean on board his own sailing yacht, Gloria, in 1987, he claims all the pieces came together. The sailing trips he embarked on in his youth, his knowledge of traditional sailing vessels, and the ventures on board his personal yachts all inspired him and kept the dream alive.

Along with the assistance of White Star Group, he established a new line known as Star Clippers. He conducted intense clipper ship research for three years - meticulously studying preserved original plans for mid-19th-century ships. Krafft was also aware that these ships would have to comply with modern regulations and, therefore, modifications had to be made. With the help of a trusted team of experienced architects and engineers, plans for the first new clipper ship in 90 years were successfully drawn up.

The result was Star Flyer, which launched in 1991 and was followed, in 1992, by sister ship Star Clipper. Krafft embarked on an even bigger challenge in the years the followed, with dreams of building a five-masted fully rigged tall ship, similar to that of the 1902 German vessel, Preussen. The almighty Royal Clipper launched in 2,000 and currently holds the Guinness World Record for being the largest square-rigged ship in service.

Mikael Krafft’s ambitions have not stopped there. In 2017, Star Clippers will launch a brand new five-masted vessel, which will bear resemblance to France II – the second largest commercial merchant sailing ship ever built. The Flying Clipper will become the largest square rigger and the largest ship of its kind afloat on the seas. It will offer traditional tall ship sailing, while also offering guests a range of modern amenities and facilities.

Today, Star Clippers offers an elegant nod to a bygone era of traditional tall ship sailing. Passengers can experience this unique way of travelling while experiencing a range of beautiful destinations in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Far East Asia.