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.