Carlsberg celebrates tall ship centenary

Carlsberg toasted the 100th birthday of a fellow Danish icon this week – the Southern Swan – during a celebration on Sydney Harbour.

Ships rarely survive 100 years and even fewer mark the milestone in active service, so it was a moving moment when the historic vessel – part of the Sydney Harbour Tall Ships fleet – set sail from Campbell Cove on January 10. 

The Southern Swan was built at the Frederikssund shipyard in Denmark and launched in 1922. In the 1950s, the Svanen – as it was then known – carried malted grain for the Tuborg Beer Company, now part of Carlsberg.

When Carlsberg heard the Danish ship was celebrating 100 years of service in the same year the Copenhagen brewery turns 175, it was eager to join the party and came on board as the official beer sponsor.

Carlsberg Brand Manager Alison Barry said: “I love that this beautiful Danish Tall Ship now sails Sydney Harbour, past the Sydney Opera House, which was designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon.

“I am thrilled that guests at the cocktail party celebrated this milestone birthday by toasting the occasion with Danish beer and that the Carlsberg flag was flying on ship on the night.”

The Southern Swan’s owner Marty Woods (pictured main) added: “Coincidence, hard work and tenacity brought these three iconic Danish things together. An Opera House, a beautiful tall ship and Carlsberg beer. Thank you Carlsberg for your support, 70 years after this eco-friendly ship carried your product to the delight of many a Dane.” 

Among the special guests at the party was Jonathan King, who conceived the iconic First Fleet Re-enactment in 1975 and spent 13 years bringing it to life.

The Southern Swan was the first vessel to join the famed re-enactment, which included seven ships—Søren Larsen (also now part of the Sydney Tall Ships fleet), R. Tucker Thompson, Anna Kristina, Amorina, Tradewind and Bounty. They sailed from Portsmouth in May 1987 and followed the route of the original First Fleet, sailing for Australia via Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, and Mauritius.

King’s passion for the tall ships was evident as he reminisced about the incredible journey, while standing on the deck of the vessel where his dream to stage the First Fleet Re-enactment first became a reality. King (above) re-mortgaged his house to secure the Southern Swan for the voyage and said he never regretted the decision for a moment.

Woods was a volunteer aboard the First Fleet Re-Enactment. He bought The Southern Swan in 2007, intent on keeping her in Australian hands after the HMAV Bounty was sold to a Hong Kong-based company. Woods had been master of the HMAV Bounty and didn’t want to see another historic vessel leave Australian shores.

However, he noted that “no one can own an icon, you can only be the custodian for a particular time”.

“We’re honoured to have that privilege,” he said. “Yes, we sign the papers and pay the bills and that’s how she owns us. 

During the 100th birthday celebrations, Woods expertly steered the ship as it crested the waves, regaling attendees with tales of the oldest member of his Sydney Harbour Tall Ships fleet, simultaneously keeping the vessel on course with gentle adjusts to the wheel with his foot.

“It’s quite amazing that she’s 100 and still working, with so many that want to help her out,” he said. “She’s a magnet drawing people in, grabbing their hearts and keeping those love affairs strong for decades … a century!

“It’s a special moment to be under sail on one of the world’s greatest harbours, passing the world iconic Sydney Opera House, lubricated by world-class Carlsberg beer, with likeminded friends and family on one of the prettiest ships that have plied these waters and on her actual birth/launching day.” 

“This birthday celebration is a wonderful opportunity for so many that have been touched or have touched this extraordinary ship to come together like her sole being reunited. A bit surreal, I guess, having so many like-minded people together.” 

The Southern Swan’s current berth is historic Campbell’s Cove in The Rocks, where passengers regularly embark on harbour cruises for a glimpse of history at sea.

She’s an impressive sight, whether she has her sails billowing or furled. Stepping on her deck and hearing about her history from the crew is an unforgettable experience.

Woods is keen for as many guests as possible to join him aboard the Southern Swan in January for her 100th birthday. He admits the restrictions and closed borders of the last 18 months haven’t been an easy time for Sydney Tall Ships.

To book a cruise aboard the Southern Swan during her birthday month, visit

Watch a video of the birthday event below:

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