Star Clippers Cruises The man behind the dream
When owner and president Mikael Krafft founded Star Clippers Cruises in 1990, he fulfilled his lifelong dream of reviving the golden age of tall ships for new generations of travellers and adventurers to enjoy.
Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Krafft grew up around the corner from one of the finest yacht builders in the world, the Plyms Shipyard, where he began working when he was just 6 years old. It was while he carried varnish and mixed wood stain for the old-timers that Krafft first learned about Pommern, a four-masted steel barquentine, anchored as a national historical museum at the Swedish-Finnish Island of Aland.
By the time he was 10, his father had given him an 18-foot wooden sailboat that he would sail the 20-mile journey across the open sea - without a compass - to visit Pommern. He returned often, learning every foot of the ship, dreaming of the day when he would own such a vessel.
Krafft graduated from the University of Stockholm with a degree in maritime law, and he practiced law in both France and Sweden. In the late 1970s he became the managing owner of a small Swedish shipping company, L. Jeansson Co., which was founded in 1875. His company expanded into oil storage, forestry, saw mills, real estate and finance/leasing.
In 1986, Krafft sold his interests in Sweden and moved with his wife, Anne, and their children, Eric and Marie, to Brussels where he founded the White Star Group of Belgium. The company focused on major real estate developments within the Benelux countries.
Yet Krafft could not let go of his childhood dream. During a leisurely Caribbean cruise in 1987 aboard his own sailing yacht, Gloria, suddenly, as he recalls, "all of the pieces came together." He would build not one, but two clippers ships, and thus have a viable business proposition: a new cruise line to be named Star Clippers.
Turning his dream into a reality took three years of intense clipper ship research, including carefully studying preserved original plans of mid-19th century ships. Numerous modifications had to be made to allow for modern materials, technology and engineering innovations. Aided by the White Star Group and a trusted team of experienced naval architects and engineers, the first new clipper ship in 90 years was successfully designed.
Construction of the tallest clipper ship began in 1990 at the Belgium Shipbuilders Corporation Yard at Ghent. The result was Star Flyer, a 360-foot sailing ship that launched in May 1991. A year later, Star Clipper, it’s identical twin, was launched and gave Krafft his long-awaited fleet. In 2000, Krafft attained greater success with the introduction of Royal Clipper, the flagship of Star Clippers and the world’s largest square-rigger in service today.