Every year, Sail Training International hosts “Tall Ship” regattas and races around the world.
More often than not, these races and regattas take place in and around Europe. This year, however, the behemoth ships make their way across the Atlantic to join forces with Tall Ships America for an epic showing of the world’s most beautiful sail ships in the Rendez-vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.
The near 40-ship regatta makes a 10,000 nautical mile trek across the Atlantic and competes in five different races to six international ports. Between races and days at sea, they dock at select ports to rest and provide education and entertainment for spectators who travel hundreds of miles to visit.
Most people who follow the Tall Ship Regatta and races know this Western Hemisphere journey is a rarity for the Sail Training International organization, and sometimes the States will wait nearly a decade to see these awe-inspiring vessels march through local ports and harbors.
This year, however, the ships make the transatlantic trek to multiple North American ports to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation.
I was fortunate enough to visit the host port of Boston, Massachusetts, and there, witnessed the incredible parade of sails, took part in public boardings of the awesome leviathans and enjoyed the multitude of events put on by the host city.
But before we go into my incredible experience, here’s what you need to know.
What are the Tall Ships?
So, what are the Tall Ships, you may ask? A Tall Ship is a sizable, traditionally-rigged sailing vessel. These generally include large barques, topsail schooners, brigs and brigantines. Basically, they’re the mother of all sail boats. For example, the largest boat in this regatta was 379 feet long.
These boats join forces with organizations like Sail Training International and Tall Ships America to provide young people with training and the experience of sailing around the world in their many yearly races and regattas.
Where are this event’s races?
The Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta holds five separate races starting in April and ending in August. The Tall Ships will race over 7,000 miles with nearly 3,000 crew members manning the sails. The races are as follows:
Race 1. Royal Greenwich, United Kingdom – Sines, Portugal (April, 2017)
Race 2. Sines, Portugal – Bermuda (May, 2017)
Race 3. Bermuda – Boston, Ma. (June, 2017)
Race 4. Boston, Ma – Golf of Saint Lawrence, Canada (June, 2017)
Race 5. Halifax, Canada – Le Havre, France (August, 2017)
For more information on the races, check out the course map.
My experience attending Sail Boston 2017
I was a college student when I first witnessed the Tall Ships march through the Boston Harbor in 2009. I was enamored with the magnificent vessels, events and atmosphere as the city’s harbor came to life for days on end. Therefore, when the tall ships came back to Boston seven years later on June 17, 2017, I was first in line to see them!
On day one of the massive Sail Boston event, the Tall Ships marched through Boston Harbor in what’s known as “The Grand Parade of Sail.” From there, each ship was assigned a unique berthing area spanning from the Boston Fish Pier to the Charlestown Navy Yard. From 10 AM to 10 PM there were festivals, musical entertainment and food stands lining the piers as people waited in a queue to board the ships.
Other events included the Patriot Run road race, a crew and cadet street parade, soccer tournament, tug-of-war competition and Sunset Salute where the military provided several hours of musical entertainment at dusk.
While this time around I only had the weekend to enjoy the festivities, I was still able to visit some of the incredible sailing vessels, enjoy awesome Dungeness crab at the infamous Seaport District’s The Barking Crab waterfront restaurant and sip a few cocktails while overlooking the boat-filled Boston Harbor at the Envoy Hotel’s Lookout Rooftop and Bar.
The Most Interesting Ships at the 2017 Tall Ships Regatta
While all the vessels in the regatta were beautiful, there were a few standouts. The following boats, to me, were the most impressive.
Alexander von Humboldt II
The Alexander von Humboldt II is a civilian squarerigger from Bremerhaven, Germany. It’s nearly 200 feet long and hosts 25 permanent, and 50 trainee crew members. It resembles the make and model of a ship from the mid 1800s, and can hit speeds of up to 14 knots. However, what makes this ship unique are its 24 beautiful, 120 foot high, bright green sails.
My personal favorite ship in the fleet, El Galeo piques nearly everyone’s interest with it 17th Century design. This fully rigged, 17th Century Spanish Galleon Replica looks similar to what you might envision a pirate ship to be like. However, these type of ships were used from the 1500s to 1700s, nearly 300 years, as trade ships and armed cargo carriers. Currently settled in Florida, this wooden ship seemed to be the biggest crowd-pleaser, and was definitely worth the wait in line!
This Chilean sea monster is the 2nd largest in the fleet, and requires onlookers to take several steps back in order to bring the entire ship into view. The Esmeralda’s gorgeous white sails and body provide a beautiful, stark contrast to the deep blue of the water, leaving visitors in awe.
To put it in perspective, this ship is 370 feet long, which is the equivalent to 1.5 Manhattan city blocks. Known as the “Ambassador of the Sea” this incredible ship serves as the Chilean Navy’s training vessel, and makes quite the impression everywhere it goes. Despite this ship’s impressive stature, it carries with it a dark past.
It acted as a floating jail during the Augusto Pinochet regime in the 1970s, where prisoners were held and tortured, making it’s arrival at some international ports very controversial. Some crew members even claim the ship is haunted.
Where are the official guest ports of the Rendez-vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta?
The vessels of the Rendez-vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta will dock at dozens of ports. While there are two stops in the US, most are in Canada, as this event commemorates the 1867 creation of the Canadian Confederation.
April 13-16, 2017: Royal Greenwich, UK
April 19, 2017: Torbay
April 29-May 1, 2017: Sines
May 1, 2017: Las Palmas
May 18-21, 2017: Charleston, South Carolina
June 17-22, 2017: Boston, Massachusetts
May 26-31, 2017: St. Georges
June 1-5, 2017: Hamilton
The Tall Ships will stop at 35 different ports in Canada, so to see participating port locations, visit the Rendez-vous 2017 Tall Ship Regatta’s website.
August 31-September 3, 2017: Le Havre
Where to see the Tall Ships next?
There are several different ways you can take part in the Tall Ship regatta experience. One, you can head to Canada this summer and visit one of the 35 host ports where the ships will be visiting. They will be in North America through all of July and some of August, so you can still catch a glimpse of the fleet this summer.
I would recommend heading to Quebec City for the main event, where the ships will be docked for six days. The itinerary is already available, and is sure to impress with cultural events, food, and musical performances. Two, you can become a trainee on one of these magnificent ships.
Check out one of the many different sites linked in this article to learn more about the different ships looking for crew trainees. Sail Training International, Tall Ships America, and Sail On Board all are great resources to learn about the different training opportunities available.