'Down to the sea in ships ...'


I love being at home, but need taking out and airing every now and again, or I get restless.

So, two trips coming up. Today it’s about the Tall Ships Race in Sunderland. Tomorrow, the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead.

The Tall Ships Race is an annual event taking place in European waters every summer and is organised by Sail Training International, a registered charity with worldwide membership. The Race is just one of the ways it promotes ‘the development and education of young people through the sail training experience, regardless of nationality, culture, religion, gender or social background.’

This year it was Sunderland’s turn to be the start host port, with 53 ships arriving on the 10th July and leaving on the Saturday 14th. As is the tradition, each host port arranges a programme of social, sporting and cultural activities for crews and visitors and we went along on the last day – a blisteringly hot, not-a-cloud-around one. We had a good look at the ships and watched them glide out of the river to head up the coast for the Parade of Sail. From there they were going first to Esberg in Denmark, then Stavanger and finally Harlingen in the Netherlands.

It was obvious from the number of people at the port, on the banks of the river and lining all available look-outs along the coast, that Sunderland had enjoyed having the ships and the ships had enjoyed being there. Huge congratulations to those in charge of organising all the associated events, the transport … everything.

A couple of things stick in my mind from the day. The first was the young people of many nationalities playing a game of tag on the Quayside in a jumble of laughter and different languages. The second happened as the Indian Navy sail training ship Tarangini started to move away from its moorings. Suddenly there was the sound of Indian music and four figures in traditional dress began to dance on the deck in a magical, exuberant goodbye to the crowds.