How Can I Take Part in a Tall Ship Regatta or Festival?
So you’ve decided to take the plunge and get involved in the tall ship scene. Congratulations! It’s a dynamic world filled with passionate people and lots of opportunities for sailing, fun, and travel. But where should you start if you’re interested in taking part in a regatta or festival?
The most well-known tall ship race is organized by Sail Training International – an international organization that promotes sailing education for young people. The race happens annually in European waters. However, if you don’t live in Europe and can’t travel there, there are other tall ship festivals and regattas happening all over the world.
Top Tall Ship Regattas and Races
1. Sail Training International Tall Ships Races
The Tall Ships Races are one of the biggest tall ship events in the world, and have been happening annually since 1956. In 1972 Cutty Sark whiskey began sponsoring the event, and the event was known as the Cutty Sark Races from 1972 until 2003. The races were originally envisioned as a way to encourage friendly competition between young people who wanted to better themselves by learning to sail. Because of STI’s continued commitment to youth sailing education, at least half of the crew on every ship must be a youth under the age of 18.
The event is a long-distance regatta that hops between a variety of different European ports each year, and takes about one month to complete. Between 50 and 100 ships compete in the race. In 2018, the race started in Stavanger, Norway and ended in Sunderland, England. 80 ships took part in the event, and over 1.5 million people attended the Tall Ships Sunderland festival to welcome the ships. The event was unfortunately canceled in 2021 due to Covid, but is scheduled to take place in 2022. The 2022 race will start on July 7 in Esbjerg, Denmark after which the ships will make their way to Harlingen, Netherlands, and Antwerp, Berlin before finishing on August 7 in Aalborg, Denmark.
Each stop will host a tall ship festival while the ships are in town, so even if you’re not ready to set sail for a full month, you can still enjoy the festivities if you’re near one of these European ports!
2. Velas LatinoAmérica
Another of the largest tall ship regattas in the world is Velas LatinoAmérica, which happens once every four years in Latin American waters. The event started in 2010 when Argentina and Chile decided to organize a historic ship event as part of the celebration of the first acts of independence in South America. 11 ships originally participated in what was originally called Velas Sudamérica, visiting 12 countries and sparking what was considered to be a valuable intellectual and cultural exchange. Today it is organized by the Chilean Navy, and all of the ships taking part in the event are of Latin American origin.
Although it appeared that Covid might force a postponement of the event until 2023, organizers have decided to go ahead in 2022, albeit with a slightly truncated schedule. The race will start in Curaçao, will stop in 12 ports in 11 countries, and will cover over 10,000 nautical miles! As with STI’s Tall Ship Races, each port will host a festival while the tall ships are in town, and visitors are encouraged to climb aboard the boats while they’re at the dock.
3. Baltic Regatta
The Baltic Regatta was first organized in 2021, after the Covid Pandemic forced the cancellation of the STI Tall Ship Races, which were scheduled to take place in the region. Three ports that had planned to receive the Tall Ship Races ships – Tallinn, Klaipeda, and Szczecin – came together to organize their own event, inviting any tall ships who wanted to participate to join free of charge. The event was still primarily aimed at giving young people the opportunity to sail on a tall ship.
Apparently, it was a success, because the Baltic Regatta is scheduled to take place again in 2022! Details are unconfirmed at the time of writing but are slated to start on July 15, 2022, and end on July 31, 2022.
Also Read: Our Tall Ship Sailing Cruise Complete Guide
Top Tall Ship Festivals
This maritime festival is one of the largest celebrations of traditional sailing ships on the French coast and happens once every two years in Sète, France. More than 300,000 people visit the festival every other year. The festival welcomes tall ships from all over, and previous years have hosted some of the largest ships in the world, as well as replicas of historic sailing ships, impressive modern yachts, and even an entire Latin armada!
The event is a week long, and scheduled to take place next from April 12 – April 18, 2022. Details of the event are currently unconfirmed, but it is expected that at least one tall ship will take part. As well as tall ships, the festival also boasts impressive fireworks displays, cultural activities, and music. Sète is a port town with plenty of other attractions to keep you busy beyond the festival. The Port de Sète and Museum of the Sea are must-sees for anyone interested in maritime history.
The best place to find information on the event is Facebook (linked above.) Many of the captains and owners of the boats that will be taking part in the festival follow the page, so if you are interested in volunteering or crewing on a ship, this would be the best place to reach out.
If you’re looking for something Stateside, the Windjammer Festival happens in Boothbay, Maine every year. A windjammer is a traditional merchant ship with multiple masts, and can be either square-rigged or rigged with triangular sails fore-and-aft.
The Boothbay event centers around a fleet of Windjammers, with opportunities to go aboard at the dock, stay on board as a guest, or take a two hour sailing tour. The main attraction is the Parade of Sail, which happens in the evening and involves a lighted parade of all the tall ships involved in the festival. There is also music, a clambake, arts and crafts, and plenty of other activities to keep young and old alike busy. The event is next scheduled to happen between June 26th and July 2nd, 2022.
If you are interested in volunteering at the event, the best way to get in touch is via the email address listed on the event’s website, which is linked above.
Across the pond, the Gloucester Tall Ships and Adventure Festival happens annually in the spring in the UK’s most inland port. The most recent iteration of the event was scheduled to happen in May of 2021, but due to Covid was moved to June 2022. Next year’s event has been planned to coincide with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, so expect the festivities to be top notch!
The price to attend the festival is very reasonable and also includes access to other museums. If you’re interested in volunteering at the festival, the best way to get in touch is via the contact page on their website, linked above.
Another American event, the Wooden Boat Festival happens annually in Port Townsend, Washington. This is the largest wooden boat festival in North America, and features wooden boats of all sizes, as anyone who owns or has built a wooden boat is invited to register their boat and join.
The festival gets a lot of applicants who want to display their boats, so boats are vetted by how interesting their history is, the historical significance of their boat, size, whether they’ve attended the festival before, and how many other boats of the same variety are already participating. As with other festivals, there are many other activities to participate in beyond simply viewing the boats.
If you own or have built a wooden boat, you can easily apply online to take part. The cost to participate is assessed per foot of the length of the boat, and on whether you want to show your boat either on land or in the water. If you simply want to go to the festival and check out the boats, you can purchase tickets or volunteer for up to 3 shifts. This is a fantastic way to get involved in the US tall ship and wooden boat community!
Tall Ship Festivals and COVID
Covid is, unfortunately, still a looming presence in the world, so keep in mind that any of these events are still subject to cancellation. Many events in 2021, including the Sail Training International Tall Ships Race, were canceled due to Covid, so keep checking the event websites for the most up-to-date information.
These are just a few of the regattas and festivals that happen annually or semi-annually all over the world. There are many other ports that are permanent homes to tall ships that you can visit – for example, the Star of India in San Diego runs daily tours and hosts frequent events, and smaller tall ship and wooden boat festivals can be found in other ports around the world. Just search for tall ships or historical boats in the port city you are visiting to find out!