All aboard - Sunderland starts The Tall Ships Races 2018

Sunderland is to be the starting port for TheTall Ships Races 2018.

The city, once known as the largest shipbuilding town in the world, is set to welcome the world famous Races in July 2018.

Sunderland's successful bid for the race was confirmed in November 2014.

Now, it has been given the honour of starting the race on Saturday 14 July 2018 and more than 70 ships are expected to begin arriving from Wednesday 11 July. They will be berthed at the Port of Sunderland and along the city's waterfront.

Councillor John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, made the announcement on Sunderland being the starting port from the deck of tall ship Stavros S Niarchos.

The 200ft two-masted brig, the largest to have been built in the UK in the last century, is on a four-day visit to Sunderland and berthed at Corporation Quay. She is open to the public tomorrow (Saturday 4 July) between noon and 5pm.

Cllr Kelly said: "To be selected as the start port for the Tall Ships Races is both an honour and a welcome challenge.

"Initially, in applying and being chosen as a host port, we were demonstrating our city’s ambition and showing what can be achieved when the general public and businesses work together with the local authority.

"Now, securing starting port status for the Tall Ships Races 2018 means we've got the icing on the cake.

"The Tall Ships Races attract hundreds of thousands of visitors. There are opportunities for residents, visitors, businesses and all the region to again benefit and enjoy the spectacle that the races provide."

As gathering, host and starting port, both sides of the River Wear upstream from the port will be berthed with ships. This creates very easy visiting and viewing access from the city centre and the seafront with their close and accessible transport links.

Cllr Kelly added: "Today's announcement that Sunderland helps confirm our excellent reputation for organising and hosting large scale events. We already have the Sunderland International Airshow, concerts at the Stadium of Light and the growing reputation of the new Sunderland Illuminations, these all help showcase Sunderland and the region. It's a great honour for the city and the North East to be the start point for the Tall Ships Races 2018.

Joining Cllr Kelly at the announcement was the Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Barry Curran. He is a ward councillor for the St Peter's ward which includes the north-bank of the river where ships will berth close to the National Glass Centre and the University of Sunderland's St Peter's Campus.

Cllr Curran said: "Naturally, we were all very pleased to hear that we'd been successful in attracting the race in 2018. Confirming today that we are going to be the gathering and start port for the race really is a great honour.

"Looking around me today, as we speak to you from a Tall Ship, it gives you a good idea of how more impressive the River Wear is going to be looking when dozens of similar vessels visit us.

"I hope everyone takes the opportunity to join in and make it a truly memorable experience for the crews as we welcome them to the ‘home of shipbuilding’."

The races bring hundreds of sail training places and volunteering opportunities for young people. These are whether as part of a trainee crew developing new skills as they sail on the ships in the races or as volunteers helping deliver events.

As part of the legacy of such a popular event it is envisaged that sail training will continue in the city.

Tim Law, Marketing and Operations Director of the Tall Ships Youth Trust, said: "Making this announcement from the deck of Stavros gives people an idea of what they can expect in 2018 - an amazing and colourful spectacle.

"We delighted to be in Sunderland for the first time and encourage people to come down and visit Stavros tomorrow as we will be hosting an open day. Come on board, explore her decks and find out about our work supporting young people through sail training.

"We are very much looking forward to coming back again in the future, including 2018."

The 2018 race dates are:

Race 1: Sunderland UK (Wed 11 - Sat 14 July) to Esbjerg Denmark (Wed 18 - Sat 21 July)

Cruise in Company: Esbjerg-Stavanger (Sat 21 July-Thursday 26 July)

Race 2: Stavanger Norway (Thurs 26 - Sun 29 July) to Harlingen The Netherlands (Fri 3 - Mon 6 August)

Cllr Kelly added: "There are lots of exciting plans under discussion including an event village spanning both sides of the river with a particular focus on family fun and easy access to prime viewing sites.

"The port and riverfront have very quick and easy access to and from public transport and the city centre. With Wearmouth Bridge and the gorge overlooking the river, we've also got some of the best viewing points imaginable."

The Tall Ships Races summer series is the largest mass participation sailing event organised annually for young people. There are regularly more than 6,000 trainees taking part. This year's races begin in Belfast this weekend.

Visitors to the Stavros tomorrow (Saturday 4 July) should enter the Port of Sunderland by the Low Street Gate. There is no parking available on-site and limited street parking in the immediate area.

Drivers are advised to park in the city centre - at St Mary's or Sunniside multi-storeys - and walk for ten minutes to Low Street.

She is due to leave her berth at around 2pm on Monday 6 July.

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Did you know?

L.S. Lowry spent his holidays in Sunderland at Seaburn, painting scenes of the coast, port and coal mines. The city is the home to one of the best collections of L.S. Lowry paintings in England.

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