The Tall Ships Races begins – Fair winds to all

During the summer, Challenge Wales usually heads further afield – quite often our voyages start from West Wales, where dolphins swim alongside us, the water is bluer than the Bristol Channel brown and our residential sail training voyages can take in Southern or Northern Ireland, the Scottish Isles or the South West Coast of England.

This year is a little bit different as we head to Antwerp (Belgium) for the Tall Ships Races, before racing down to Lisbon (Portugal), Cadiz (Spain), A Caruna (Spain) and back home to the UK. It’s our longest summer trip yet and one we have been planning for and looking forward to for some time.

It’s an exciting time for all, the Tall Ships Races is one of the most spectacular events; from shore side crew activities, crew parades and festivities around the streets, awards and meting people from different cultures – all with a story to tell.

Tall Ships Crew Parade - can you spot the 3 Welsh flags and the red dragon's head? (pic courtesy of Sail Training International)

Tall Ships Crew Parade – can you spot the 3 Welsh flags and the red dragon’s head? (pic courtesy of Sail Training International)

Crew festivities from the parade melted into an awards ceremony. Lots of cheering and support from crew, trainees and the locals. Unexpectedly, which was a lovely surprise!, Challenge Wales was awarded the Environmental Award and Blue Flag status – a great achievement for us and recognition of our efforts to play a part in protecting the seas we sail in. It was also a great opportunity for two of our trainees to experience the limelight and go on stage in front of thousands of people and pick up the award with the Skipper. Lots of smiles all round.

On stage at the Tall Ships Awards (pic courtesy of Sail Training International)

On stage at the Tall Ships Awards (pic courtesy of Sail Training International)

From the Awards Ceremony, the evening rolled into the crew party – an opportunity for everyone to let their hair down and relax before the start of the Tall Ships Race.  A fun evening was had by all and all topped off by a spectacular firework display that brought colour to the sky and illuminated the masts and unfurled sails of the Tall Ships.

Fireworks and Tall Ships

The following day it was time for the Parade of Sail – an amazing opportunity to see some of the most spectacular tall ships in the world and it certainly drew thousands locals and tourists to the dock to cheer the boats off.

Tall Ships departing Antwerp for the Parade of Sail (pic courtesy of Tall Ships International)

Tall Ships departing Antwerp for the Parade of Sail (pic courtesy of Tall Ships International)

From Antwerp the vessels headed down River and into heavy weather, that first evening most vessels darted into nearby ports to get a few hours rest from the choppy seas. Challenge Wales motor sailed into Dover and got a few hours rest before later that evening heading off, at 10pm, when the wind dropped and the tide was in our favour, to Gosport.

Our passage from Dover to Gosport

Our passage from Dover to Gosport

From Gosport, Challenge Wales headed towards Torbay – this would be the start of the Tall Ships Race. Many of the larger Tall Ships had continued sailing through the night to get to the start line with many crossing it shortly after 10.00am on 13th July 2016.  Although Challenge Wales crossed the start line at 5.00pm, that day, this was still within the starting window and that starting window would remain open until 8.00pm the following day. Today has been a party day onboard Challenge Wales as we celebrate one of our trainees getting a year older! What a fantastic way to spend a birthday – starting an adventure with new found friends!

Challenge Wales about to cross the start line of the Tall Ships Races 2016

Challenge Wales about to cross the start line of the Tall Ships Races 2016. A screen grab taken from the Yellow Brick tracking system. Challenge Wales is highlighted with a white line around it just underneath Torquay.

As all the boats make their way to the start line, we wish everyone fair winds and a safe passage. And, for any budding Captain Jack Sparrows out there, there is still the opportunity to jump onboard some of these spectacular Tall Ships this summer!


The Tall Ships Races are organised by Sail Training International and the 2016 race that Challenge Wales is taking part in  can be tracked here. Tall Ships Races is one of the largest young people’s events taking place and one of the largest spectator events in Europe bringing people from all over the world and all walks of life together. Sail training helps build young people’s resilienc and self-confidence as well as improve teamwork and communication skills. There are still 4 berths left on Challenge Wales for a 15 day voyage from Cadiz to A Coruna (30th July – 13th August) and bursaries are available for UK residents to cover between 50% – 90% of the costs (depending on eligibility). Berths with full bursary are from £135. If you are living in Europe and wish to join us then you can book your berth via Windseeker

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This entry was posted in Festivals and Events, Sail Training, Sailing, Tall Ships, teambuilding, Young people and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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