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Tall Ships Festival in Sunderland - 5 Reasons Why You Should Go

Tecla Tall Ships Race

The Tall Ships Sunderland took place in 2018 - At the moment there are no UK ports registered to host the tall ships until at least 2022, (updated on 07/02/2019)


For information on the Tall Ships Races and where they sail in 2019, head here. 


A fleet will arrive in Sunderland from Tuesday 10th - Sat 14th July and the Big Summer Tall Ships Race 2018 kicks off next weekend. Are you going to see them?

ITN News reported that 1.5 million people are expected to turn up on the quaysides of the River Wear for the 5 day event."

We think is an incredible turn out for a UK based tall ships festival. Our Classic Sailing team were at Liverpool Tall Ships Festival earlier this year but this one will be the big main summer event for tall ships lovers and anyone with a sense of occasion. There is plenty to see for families from ship visits to fireworks every evening to high wire circus acts.

Tall Ships Festival in Sunderland - 5 Reasons Why You Should Go

If you have a passion for tall ships this might sound a bit like a crowded jamboree and too many tourists that don't know their t'gallants from their royals, so why go down to the ships in Sunderland?  The Classic Sailing team give you 5 good reasons to join the happy summer throng:

1. Some of the Biggest Tall Ships in the World are Coming

If you love the classic lines of a historic schooner then check out the four masted Santa Maria Manuela. She still allows guest crew to try fishing from the ships dories with rod and line whilst in Northern fishing grounds - like her fishing days of old.  If you are more of a square rigger fan then the biggest coming are ships like the Christian Radich from Norway or the huge Russian four master Mir.

Size isn't everything. We might be biased but we think your should go and say hello to the crew on some of the Classic Sailing fleet. These are some of the ships we offer adult sailing berths on throughout the year. They already have 2018 and 2019 voyages you can sign up for. Check out Brig Morgenster - winner of the Tall Ships Race to Bordeaux earlier in the year or three masted topsail schooner Oosterschelde who has very tempting tropical sailing expeditions in Cape Verde this winter.

Ticket to travel the world - learn tall ship skills on Oosterschelde
Ticket to travel the world - learn tall ship skills on Oosterschelde

Unusual wooden tall ships worth a ship visit if you can include the Shtandart or The Norwegian Dyrafjeld built in 1889 and one of the world’s oldest wooden ships still sailing. Under the name “Anna Kristina” she has sailed the seas for many years, from Spitsbergen in the north to Tasmania in the south....and the current captain of Europa, Klaas Gaastra began his tall ship captain career on her. Dyrafeld races in Class B along with wooden gaff ketch Maybe - another Classic Sailing vessel we offer berths on with the ever competitive Grace as skipper.

If you want to learn more about the whole race circuit from Sunderland to Esjberg, the cruise in company to the Norwegian Fjords and the race from Stavanger to Harlingen  then check out Summer Tall Ships Race 2018

The official website for day to day events in Sunderland is  TallshipsSunderland

The bigger the tall ship, the larger the yards
The bigger the tall ship, the larger the yards. Photo Tenacious by

2. The Fleet is Not Coming Back For a Few Years

International Tall Ships Festivals are a big thing for the ports that host them and to create this buzz on the quayside takes years of planning. Sunderland dos this very well, and were rewarded by being selected again to host this years tall ship gathering for Race 1 to Esjberg. The international Tall Ships Race fleet is not coming back to a UK Port for at least 2 years. If you want to see where the races and big tall ship festivals are being held in 2019 and 2020 then check out the ports on Classic Sailing website.

Tall Ships Races 2019     Tall Ships Races 2020

Goodbye Tall Ships Fleet - no more UK Race ports for a few years
Goodbye Tall Ships Fleet - no more UK Race ports for a few years

3. Get Up Close & Personal with a Real Tall Ship

You can look at as many instagram and facebook photos of tall ships as you like, but until you visit them and stand on their main deck you will never really get a sense of scale of what it is like to sail them, live on board or climb the rigging. Some like Mir look huge with vast wooden decks, metal belaying pins and winding gear to help hoist the huge yards. You can imagine them sailing around Cape Horn and the tall Russian sailors look the part.If you are a female sailor seek out some of the ships that are not for naval cadets only. Nearly all have mixed crews and have many female professional crew. Maybe has a female skipper and Lord Nelson and Tenacious have been captained by Barbera Campbell and Clare Cupples over many years along with their male counterparts.

friendly sized main deck on barque Europa
friendly sized main deck on barque Europa


4. Soak Up the Young Optimism -Tall Ship Sailing Unites Nations

If you are sick of the news, politics and nationalistic football supporters strutting their stuff  then rubbing shoulders with lots of bronzed and happy young sailors from many different nationalities is a real boost to your summer feel good factor. Tall ships races are designed to bring your people together to forget their differences and share the all absorbing pursuit of sailing a tall ship as fast and well as they can - through teamwork. At the end of the race many young and old crews have a better understanding of each others cultures and will have the confidence to believe they CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. At the last tall ships race Morgenster had 11 nationalities on board. 

You can sense this even at the start of the event in Sunderland as many ships crews have already sailed half way around the world to be here. Tangarini has sailed from India and one ship is from Siberia.

Hanging around on the waterfront - with a fleet of tall ships
Hanging around on the waterfront - with a fleet of tall ships

5. Suss out which tall ship you are going to sail

We are going to let you into a little secret: There is more to life than participating in a summer tall ships race.  You have only just discovered the tip of the terms of tall ship travel opportunities. You have more choices to sail these ships than you could ever believe. Some of us have even made a career out of sailing on tall ships.

Make your trip to Sunderland a bit more productive and do some research on Classic Sailing website if you think you might want to sail one of these incredible ships.  Then go down and meet the ships and crews and poke about on board, gaze up at the rigging and ask lots of questions.

Here are a few ship pages that might be useful for comparisons beyond the statistics.

Oosterschelde     Morgenster    Lord Nelson     Tenacious    Maybe      Europa     Careers Advice - working on Tall Ships

Morgenster coming at you. Photo Richard Sibley
Morgenster coming at you. Photo Richard Sibley

Ready to Sign Up 'Before the Mast'?

If you are looking for a 'one stop shop' for tall ship sailing opportunities, we are going to give you TWO:


Sail Training International - Sail on Board - the official website for finding tall ship berths for YOUNG PEOPLE


Classic Sailing (that's us)  -  the leading experts in tall ship sailing adventures for ADULTS

We are tall ship enthusiasts that saw there was a demand from adults to have thrilling adventures on tall ships back in 1997 and created Classic Sailing just for YOU. Our website has over 300 voyages from 1 night to several month trips. We do take bookings from young people under 26 too!

Over 10 000 people have sailed with us since 1997 We can give you the low down on the different styles of 'hands on' sailing offered by each ship.  Some are very 'sail training' and others are more at the adventure charter with a bit more comfort end of the market....but on all of them you help sail the ship, whether it is a big square rigger exploring Antarctica, a family run lugger bringing back tea cargoes from the Azores or a historic Herring Drifter attempting the North West Passage.



Captain Jakob on Morgenster - not all tall ship masters are scarey
Captain Jakob on Morgenster - not all tall ship masters are scarey


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