Keel Laying for the Star Clipper’s Near-Replica of France II

starclipperfranceIn May, we posted that Star Clippers is building the world’s largest square-rigged passenger ship, a near-replica of the five-masted barque France II commissioned in 1911.  Last week, the keel of the as of yet unnamed ship was laid in the Brodosplit Shipyard in Split. The new 8,770-tonne ship will carry 300 passengers and set more than 6,350 square meters of sail. In comparison, the tea clipper Cutty Sark set only half as much sail at around 3,000 square meters. The new ship is expected to be launched in the second half of 2017.

Currently, the largest square-rigged passenger ship in the world is Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper, a five-masted full-rigged ship modeled after the Preußen, built in 1902.  The 5,000 tonne Royal Clipper sets 5,200 square meters of sail.  Star Clipper also operates two barquentines, the sister vessels, Star Clipper and Star Flyer. Each sets 3,200 square meters of sail on four masts.

There are two remarkable aspects to the Star Clipper fleet, including the new vessel under construction. First, the ships are primarily sailing vessels. They all have engines and generators to keep the lights on and the drinks cold, yet their primary source of propulsion is the wind. Notwithstanding meeting all current safety rules and featuring bars and swimming pools, these ships are truly modern-day clipper ships.

The second remarkable feature of these ships is while their sail plans reflect the great windjammers of the early 20th century, the rigs themselves are relatively modern. The ships feature deck winches and hydraulics, including hydraulic furling of the square sails in the yards. In this respect, they are both a tribute to the great sailing ships of the past and a glimpse at what could be the future of commercial sail in the future.

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4 Responses to Keel Laying for the Star Clipper’s Near-Replica of France II

  1. R. D. Flick says:

    ‘What goes around comes around–again.’ Great squib on the new FRANCE II. In spite of all the support engines, generators I think I’m right in that, by law now, she would have some propulsion engines to keep on a cruise schedle during times of deficient winds, maneuvering, landing, leaving docks, ports etc. I look forward to seeing this marvelous ship.

  2. Rick Spilman says:

    All the Star Clipper ships have diesel electric propulsion systems, not unlike conventional cruise ships, although much smaller. Even the original France II had two 900 HP diesel engines, although they were later removed.

  3. Erik ABRANSON says:

    This Star Clipper Cruises project was announced publicly in May. I have not seen the plans of this new sailiner, but calling it a “near replica” of FRANCE II has to be greatly stretching the definition of “replica”. We can be sure she will be as much a “near replica” of the 1911 five-masted barque as the ROYAL CLIPPER is of the 1902 five-masted full-rigged ship PREUSSEN. The contemporary vessels are merely inspired by those two size record-breakers of a century ago.
    There is nothing wrong with the modern interpretations apart from the abuse of the word “replica”. Replication or near-replication is not economically or operationally feasible, not to mention compliance with modern safety regulations. The PREUSSEN was built and rigged with 1900 technology for the South American nitrate trade; FRANCE II was built with the same technology for the New Caledonia nickel ore trade*. The contemporary vessels are designed and built for the 21st century holiday passenger trade. The sail plans are similar to those of the “originals” but the masting, rigging and way the sales are operated are avant-garde and might be of relevance to a rebirth of low carbon cargo-carrying.
    * Actually, the FRANCE II also had very comfortable and luxurious accommodation for a very small number of passengers wishing to take a break from the hectic life ashore. Carrying holidaymakers was a novel concept at the time.
    I wonder if the FRANCE III (my provisional code name for the present project) is a rebirth of the LA FRANCE project that was being promoted by Frenchman Bernard Bouygues in the 1990s and that appears to have fizzled out in 2002 when Mr Bouygues gave up on finding financial backers in France and went to work as fleet manager for Mike Burke’s Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. It seems that Bouygues was hoping that Windjammer Barefoot Cruises would adopt the LA FRANCE project but the company folded up in 2007. At the time (2002), Bouygues was also looking into other possible backing in the US and Canada.
    The LA FRANCE project Web site is still up, http://www.grand-voilier.com/ The support association in France was still in existence as of 2007. The site shows very little activity, with nothing new concerning the barque project for years before then and with sparse other tall ships news and events up to 2012.
    The LA FRANCE project had/has great similarities with the Star Clipper one. Bouygues originally envisaged a near-replica but was soon obliged by regulations and market considerations to alter significantly the ship’s design for compatibility with modern holiday passenger use. However the original purpose of the idea remains stated (as a fossil) as a multi-purpose vessel acting as an ambassador for France, promoting its trade, French culture, linking francophone countries, in the hope of attracting backers with diverse agendas. Has Star Clipper picked that project up? Whatever the answer, the Star Clipper project is confirmed; the keel is laid and launching is scheduled for 2017. Unlike the woolly Bouygues dream, it is backed by experience and a proven out-and-out holiday cruising business plan.

  4. Rick Spilman says:

    Very interesting Erik. Thanks for your comments. I agree that “near-replica” is a stretch. Homage might be a better term.