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Gallery 2 > Event Coverage > Tall Ships Races 2018 > About The Tall Ships Races

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Sunderland is the start host port for The Tall Ships Races 2018

The majestic vessels will congregate in the River Wear and Port of Sunderland as they prepare to embark on a spectacular race covering over three hundred nautical miles to Esbjerg in Denmark, a cruise in company to Norway, calling at the coastal city of Stavanger, then undertaking the final leg of the 2018 Races to the beautiful city of Harlingen in the Netherlands. In total they will cover more than one thousand nautical miles over three weeks, giving thousands of young people a thrilling sail training experience, developing new skills, sharing fantastic memories and making friendships that will last a lifetime.



The Vessels 

One great aspect of The Tall Ships Races is that several types of vessels are welcome to participate. Every vessel competes in a specific class depending on its type and size. There is also an adopted ‘rule of race’, a specific calculation that allows vessels of every shape and size to have the opportunity to be overall winner.


There are four classes of vessel:


Class A

All square – rigged vessels and all other vessel more than 40 metres Length Overall (LOA), regardless of rig.


Class B

Traditionally rigged vessels with an LOA of less than 40 metres and with a waterline length of at least 9.14 metres.


Class C

Modern rigged vessels with an LOA of less than 40 metres and with a waterline length of at least 9.14 metres not carrying spinnaker-like sails.


Class D

Modern rigged vessels with an LOA of less than 40 metres and with a waterline length of at least 9.14 metres carrying spinnaker-like sails.


The Tall Ships Races are open to any monohull vessel and must reach the following requirements:

• The vessel has to be at least than 9.14m water line length

• At least 50% of the crew has to be aged between 15 and 25 years old

• The vessel has to meet Sail Training International’s safety equipment requirements



History Of The Races

The idea of an international race for sail training ships, with crews drawn from cadets and seamen under training, was first discussed informally in 1953. Retired London solicitor, Bernard Morgan, had a dream of a Brotherhood of the Sea, which would bring the youth of the world's seafaring people together in friendly competition. He believed this would be a fitting way to mark what was considered to be the end of the age of sailing. The idea found particular favour with the Portuguese Ambassador in the UK, Dr Pedro Theotónio Pereira, who believed that a race could foster good relations and understanding between young people of different countries. The more Morgan and Pereira talked about the idea, interest grew in the idea, tickling the imaginations of many, including in Britain Earl Mountbatten, the First Sea Lord, and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.


The Sail Training International Race Committee was established and plans were made for a race between Torbay in the UK and Lisbon in Portugal in July 1956. Twenty ships participated in the race, and the British Moyana was declared the winner. On its way back to Southampton, the Moyana was wrecked in a storm, and sank to the bottom of the sea. All of the 23 officers and crew were saved, and even had the presence of mind to save the trophy. The first race was thought to be a one-time event, but attracted so much attention in the press that the committee decided to repeat the event in 1958 and after that every other year.



The Tall Ships Races today

The race usually attracts between 70 and 100 ships, and gives young people the opportunity to have a potentially life-changing experience, develop new skills, visit new ports and join with others from across the globe in the spirit of adventure. The Tall Ships Races is now an annual event, and is held each summer in European waters. The race usually includes four ports with a race between the first two, a Cruise-in-Company between port two and three and a final race between ports three and four. Every host port arranges a program of social, sporting and cultural activities for the crews and visitors. During the event each port will host a carnival-like Crew Parade and an awards ceremony to celebrate the achievements of the participating crews.



The Route

Sunderland (UK) 11-14 July 2018 -

The City of Sunderland has the honour to be the start port for The Tall Ships Races in 2018. Hosting the event for the first time, Sunderland, a city by the sea has a commercial port as well as a multi award-winning coastline and riverside. The city’s relationship with the sea goes back many centuries from once being the largest shipbuilding town in the world to our ever busy Port of Sunderland which celebrates its 300th birthday in 2017. Hosting the Tall Ships fleet, with crews and visitors from all around Europe and beyond, will provide a unique opportunity to showcase the city’s rich culture, heritage and of course Sunderland’s well-deserved friendly reputation.


Esbjerg (Denmark) 18-21 July 2018 -

After overwhelming successes in previous events, Esbjerg is, once again proud to be a host port for this prestigious event. In 2014 the city welcomed over 600,000 visitors to the four day festival with many visitors taking the opportunity to get on-board the beautiful ships and meet their fascinating crews. Esbjerg is increasingly recognised for its university facilities, sporting activities, notable museums and entertainment venues. Now the largest port in Denmark by area, 2018 will see the 150th anniversary of the port which is widely regarded to be the foundation of the city. From Esbjerg the vessels will sail a Cruise-in-Company leg to the city of Stavanger. Before leaving Danish waters, there will be an opportunity to visit the city of Hirtshals on the North West coast of Denmark. Situated within easy reach of the main shipping channels, Hirtshals is at the centre of one of the main Danish tourist areas with plenty to see and do for visiting crews and trainees.


Stavanger (Norway) 26-29 July 2018 -

2018 will be the fourth time The Tall Ships Races will have visited, and the city is delighted to once again welcome ships and crews from around the world. Following previous events, returning ships and crews will experience new developments in both the harbour and the city centre with now more than 1.5 km of uninterrupted quays right in the middle of the city. Stavanger boasts an impressive assortment of museums and cultural events. As a former European Capital of Culture the city continues to deliver a wide variety of events and activities, many of which will be within easy reach of the ships as they visit this intriguing host port.


Harlingen (The Netherlands) 3-6 August 2018 -

Harlingen, one of the oldest seaports in The Netherlands, most recently hosted The Tall Ships Races in 2014. A gateway to northern Holland the city is a yachting centre with two ancient tidal docks, the Noorderhaven and Zuiderhaven surrounding its historic centre giving Harlingen its unique character. Ship and yacht building have always been part of the local industry with historic warehouses and stately homes of ship owners lining the Noorderhaven. With its fantastic facilities and experience of organising large maritime events such as the Fishery Days, Frisian Harbour Days and the Tall Ships Races Harlingen is set to be a fitting end port for what promises to be a truly memorable race series.




Tall ships route