Golden Horizon’s troubled journey – how the world’s biggest tall ship has battled the storms of Covid, cash problems, legal rows and sanctions

Choppy waters: Golden Horizon (Picture: Tradewind Voyages)

With the news that Tradewind Voyages has paused sales of cruises on Golden Horizon and warned of cancellations, I look back on the ship’s troubled history…

She’s an impressive ship. With 35 sails flapping in the wind, Golden Horizon commands the seas, slicing through waves and creating a spectacle of another age.

But the world’s biggest square rigger has weathered a number of storms over the years. The string of bad luck started almost as soon as work began…

2015: The ship is ordered by Monaco-based Star Clippers from the Brodosplit yard in Croatia as Flying Clipper.

2017: In the year the 300-passenger vessel was originally due to set sail, Star Clippers founder and CEO Mikael Krafft announces ‘some delay in construction’ but says ‘the resulting quality of build will be excellent when Flying Clipper is delivered in 2018’. In October 2017 the hull is launched down a slipway.

2018: The year passes with no sign of the ship going into service.

2019: In August, Brodosplit declares Flying Clipper is finished but because of a dispute with Star Clippers it is putting the ship up for sale. Star Clippers insists the ship is still theirs.

2020: In June, the yard announces that the ship, now known by its construction title Brodosplit 483, has found a home at Tradewind Voyages, a UK-based operator, though it will retain ownership. Tradewind Voyages is a subsidiary of Brodosplit. Star Clippers again claims the vessel.

March 2021: Tradewind Voyages moves back the world debut of Golden Horizon in Harwich, UK, from May to July 1, to fit with the government’s new timetable out of Covid lockdown

April 2021: Star Clippers is awarded ‘substantial damages’ in the legal row over the ship.

June 2021: The ‘dress rehearsal’ voyage of Golden Horizon in Portsmouth is scuppered by new government rules limiting cruise ship capacity. Initial round-Britain itineraries are also canned when the Scottish government bans calls from cruise ships at its ports.

July 2021: Golden Horizon begins a maiden season of cruises from Dover – but is briefly arrested during a stopover at the port in the continuing row between Star Clippers and Brodosplit. Following the incident, former Tradewind Voyages CEO Stuart Mcquaker says he has ‘lost all confidence’ in Brodosplit’s owner delivering Golden Horizon to the required standard.

October 2021: Tradewind Voyages cancels Golden Horizon’s inaugural Caribbean season over ‘guest concerns about travelling in bubbles’ due to Covid rules.

March 2022: The ship’s 2022 season is put back from May to July for a number of reasons including the Ukraine war. Brodosplit is forced to halt production at its shipyard because of international sanctions against a Russian-owned bank which lent it money for Golden Horizon and another ship.

May 2022: Tradewind Voyages’ head of sales Mark Schmitt and business development manager Rachel Healey leave the company.

June 2022: Tradewind Voyages pauses cruise sales and warns of cancellations following the sanctions on the Russian-owned bank that lends to Brodosplit.

Read my review of Golden Horizon here

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