Years of preparation burst into action today (Friday 26 August) as festivities at the first port of The North Sea Tall Ships Regatta 2016 began in Blyth in Northumberland, UK.
Celebrating the 60th diamond anniversary of the races, Sail Training International and Blyth have worked together to ensure that this unique four day event gets off to the most spectacular of starts over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
James Stevens, Race Chairman at Sail Training International talked about the upcoming voyage and the trainee experience,
“This event is about challenge, adventure and teamwork. The young crew will climb the masts, steer, keep a lookout, haul ropes and all the other tasks required to sail a ship.
“They will learn to work together in friendly rivalry with other ships.”
Mike Bowles, Race Director at Sail Training International said,
“Up to thirty vessels are in port – 19 of which will be racing across to Gothenburg, Sweden. They include the magnificent 108 metre long Class A ship Dar Mlodziezy from Poland – the longest vessel in the fleet, who also has the largest crew at 196 people; and 116 year old Class B Swan (UK) – the oldest vessel in the fleet.”
Blyth is a friendly and extraordinarily welcoming town in northern England, with a thriving port and an excellent reputation for supporting renewable energy. It is hosting the international fleet for the very first time, as the start port of the North Sea Tall Ships Regatta 2016, and is expecting hundreds of thousands of visitors.
The event is open to the public from 10am – 10pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday and 10am – 5pm on Monday. Activities for both crews and visitors promise to be outstanding over the weekend, with firework displays every night, sports, plenty of live music and local food stalls. A vibrant Crew Parade and Prize-Giving Ceremony is also eagerly anticipated, all of which will provide the perfect party before crews prepare for racing across the North Sea to Gothenburg, Sweden.
Lesley Strickland, Fleet Project Manager, made special note of the importance of the sail training experience that the regatta will provide,
“We are delighted to have been able to recruit over 80 local trainees for the regatta who we have placed on a wide range of vessels – Black Diamond of Durham (UK), Challenger 3 (UK), Christian Radich (Norway), Lord Nelson (UK), Maybe (UK), Morgenster (Netherlands), Oosterschelde (Netherlands), Shtandart (Russia), Swan (UK), Thalassa (Netherlands) and Vega Gamleby (Sweden). It really is going to be a life changing experience for them all, forging new relationships and overcoming challenges with other young people from around the world.
“My advice for anyone thinking about the sail training experience is to simply get on board by visiting sailonboard.com”
For more information about the festival visit www.tallshipsblyth2016.com.
News from behind the sails: Life on board Thalassa
Thalassa (Class A, Netherlands) was the first vessel to be welcomed into the picturesque port, arriving mid-morning on Wednesday 24 August. Captain Jacob Jan Dam took some time to tell us about the sail training experience on board.
“Thalassa is a really good sailing vessel and we always try to have a lot of fun on board. When a group of young people first joins us we teach them about the boat, explain how things work on board and then they work closely with the permanent crew who help them to do everything themselves safely. When they are ready we then go out to sea and that’s when we find out who feels sea sick! We’ve been in storms before, with eight metre high waves and 90% of the crew feeling sick – but most people get over it in a few days and for those who suffer the longest we have medicine to help.
“What I love most about sailing is the difference it makes to the young people who come on board – even for just a week. It’s challenging for them. They all come on board as strangers and have to get used to each other, as well as learn new things in a totally new environment. But – it’s the same for everyone and by the end of the week they have become great friends. Then they have to say goodbye to each other, and to the ship, and there are often tears. The experience of sail training gives a lot and I see this in the young people I have on board Thalassa. It’s a wonderful thing.”
Photo: Crowds gather for day one of the North Sea Tall Ships Regatta 2016 (Credit Andrew Bryson)