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Tall Ships Races 2017: Crews forge international friendships in Finland

Posted on: 20.07.17

Tall Ships Races are renowned for promoting friendship and cultural exchange around the world and the current visit of the Tall Ships Races 2017 to Finland is no exception.

Friendships are not only formed between the young people taking part, but also with people from the many ports visited around the world.

Jan Vandenborre, Captain of Rupel (Belgium), is a veteran of 16 editions of the Tall Ships Races. He explains how his crew struck up a friendship with a young Finn, who they met out at sea as they approached Kotka, Finland.

As the Belgian vessel approached the Finnish port, he explains how they spotted a solitary figure in a small wooden vessel around 15-20 miles out of Kotka.

“We were passing the last fjords on the approach to Kotka when we spotted a tiny vessel in the drizzle so we went over to have a look and check there wasn’t a problem as it is unusual to see such a small boat so far out.”

“We found Olavi on board on his own and he’d been at sea for three days out of Helsinki and he was on his way to come to see the Tall Ships in Kotka.”

“We checked he was OK, gave him some beers and Belgian waffles and he continued on his way towards to Kotka. When he arrived later we invited him for dinner and he ate enough for three people. We are full at the moment but we hope that he will be able to sail with us at some point in the future.”

In Kotka the Rupel crew embraced 25-year-old Olavi as one of their own, and invited him to join them for the Crew Parade and Prize-Giving Ceremony, and he plans to travel to Turku, to spend time with the crew before they depart from Finland.

The French vessel Belle Poule, who was moored next to Rupel, has also supported Olavi by providing provisions for his return journey to Helsinki demonstrating the spirit of friendship for which the Tall Ships Races is famed.


The Captain of Belle Poule (France), Ltn Antoine Collin, with 25-year-old Finnish sailor, Olavi.

As the final vessels in the fleet approach Turku, the second Finnish port in the Tall Ships Races 2017, there is no doubt that yet more international friendships will be formed.

The crew of Shabab Oman II (Oman) has also been forging friendships with their Finnish hosts. Whilst visiting one of the coffee stands in the Kotka event area with three of his officers, Commander Ali Al-Hosni met 27-year-old Janni Laatikainen who told him excitedly that she had witnessed their “breathtaking arrival” the previous day with the crew lined on decks with the sounds of their bagpipes echoing across the port.

The Captain of Shabab Oman II invited Janni to join VIPs and the crews of the other vessels participating in the Tall Ships Races 2017 for a traditional Omani breakfast on board the following morning.

“It was so emotional watching Shabab Oman II arrive with all the crew lined up on the deck playing the bagpipes. I couldn’t believe it when the Captain invited me board when he came to buy a coffee. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will never forget.”

Janni Laatikainen


The Captain of Shabab Oman II, Commander Ali Al-Hosni, with Finnish coffee sever Janni Laatikainen in Kotka.

The official port programme in Turku, Finland, starts this afternoon with the Opening Ceremony at 14:00 followed by a Captains’ Dinner this evening hosted by the City of Turku.

About the Tall Ships Races 2017

The Tall Ships Races 2017 is taking place in four different countries and five ports, with three exciting race legs across the Baltic Sea and a spectacular Cruise-in-Company. The event has attracted an incredible fleet of more than 100 vessels, and participation from an awesome number of trainees from around the world. There are trainee places available on each of the race legs and the Cruise-in-Company – book your place directly with a participating vessel.

Follow the Fleet

Track the fleet as they approach Turku using YB Satellite Tracking.

What’s Next?

Want to get involved with the Tall Ships Races 2017? There are still berths available – secure your place today! Check out our event page for more information. Book your place directly with a participating vessel.

Photo: Jan Vandenbourne of Rupel assists a 25-year-old Finnish sailor as he approaches Kotka from Helsinki in his small vessel.