Hundreds of motorcycles flocked to Sunderland seafront this morning to herald the visit of the Tall Ships Race this summer.
A magnificent fleet of sailing vessels will arrive in the city on July 11 for the UK’s largest, free, family festival; the Tall Ships Races Sunderland 2018.
And members of the 28 clubs which make up the The North East Coalition of Motorcycle Clubs were invited to the seafront by the Hells Angels Motor Club Tyne & Wear to form a guard of honour in anticipation of the visit and publicise their fund-raising success.
Hells Angels club spokesman Craig was delighted by the response: "We have got about 250 bikes here, which is what we wanted," he said.
"We are very happy with the turn-out. The 28 clubs represented here have raised £42,000 for various charities."
The Tall Ships Race has a particular significance for the Hells Angels, whose club house has a special connection to Britain’s naval heritage.
"Our clubhouse used to be the rehabilitation centre for the Royal Navy after the Battle of Trafalgar," explained Craig.
And the former pub hosts a very important piece of history from the battle, of which the Angels are extremely proud.
Angels Place - one of the oldest buildings in Sunderland - is in Church Street East, in the heart of Sunderland’s East End, close to the port, and hosts a full, battle log detailing the chronological events of Trafalgar, with each ship’s fate accounted for and the notification of Admiral Nelson’s death in battle carefully recorded.
"Even though the British were badly outnumbered, Nelson decided to go on the attack, declaring England expects every man to do his duty,” said Alasdair Bailey, accountant and chairman of the Coalition Motor Cycle Club.
"He died doing his duty but under his orders the battle raged on, securing British control of the seas and ensuring Napoleon would never again try to invade the British Isles.
On July 11, a fleet of vessels even larger than that faced by Nelson will descend on Sunderland, marking the start of four days of celebrations in the city, ‘but this time we will be very pleased to see them.
"It’s brilliant that the port of Sunderland, one of the oldest and greatest ports in Britain, has been chosen for this event and we want to show the rest of the country – and the world - that they will receive the very warmest of welcomes," added Alisdair.