All aboard – a new vessel has set sail for Sunderland’s Tall Ships Race.
Bulgarian ship STV Royal Helena has arrived at the Port of Sunderland to become the latest to sign up for next year’s spectacular.
The four-day event will take place next July, with up to 80 ships and 1.5million visitors expected to be attracted to the city.
The Royal Helena is a sail training vessel which can take up to 100 trainees, and was launched in 2009.
The ship’s stay in Sunderland coincided with a visit from representatives of race organisers Sail Training International, who were carrying out their first inspection visit. The Mayor of Sunderland, Coun Alan Emerson, says everything is on course.
He said: “I’m sure Sail Training International have been satisfied that the team is working hard and are on track to deliver a memorable Tall Ships Races event in Sunderland in July 2018.
I’m sure Sail Training International have been satisfied that the team is working hard and are on track to deliver a memorable Tall Ships Races eventCoun Alan Emerson
“The city is certainly ready, and excited to welcome the Tall Ships fleet. We can also share the news that this beautiful ship, the Royal Helena from Bulgaria, will officially sign up to participate in the 2018 races.”
Race director Paul Bishop, meanwhile, has hailed the team involved in putting on the event.
He said: “Sunderland is certainly on track.
“They have a very professional and dedicated team and so far, we’ve been very, very impressed with how they are doing. It’s a great reassurance that right from the councillors down they are taking a keen interest to make sure nothing is left undone before the event, which is music to our ears.
“Sunderland has a fantastic maritime heritage in building ships and looking after crews.”
The Royal Helena’s captain, Ovidiu Eram, was on hand to officially register the ship to take part in next year’s event. The three mast barquentine is on its first visit to the UK, and is usually based in the Black Sea.
Mr Eram said: “I only joined the ship one month ago so this is a very exciting opportunity for me.”
Paul Thompson, commercial director of Sail Training International, said: “It’s a fantastic ship which will provide sail training for young people, giving them life-changing experiences at sea. One of the great things about this event in Sunderland is that it will give at least 100 local youngsters aged 15 to 25 the chance to take part in the Tall Ships Races.”
A training programme for those youngsters interested in taking part will be launched in September.