Monday, 22 July 2013

One in half a million

For a few days last week, Helsinki hosted The Tall Ships Races 2013, an event bringing together more than a hundred sailing vessels from around the world under the Sail Training International non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the development and education of young people through the sail training experience. Any monohull vessel with a waterline length of more than 9.14m fulfilling the safety requirements can participate provided that at least half of the crew is aged between 15 and 25.

Every four years, The Tall Ships Races take place on the Baltic Sea. This time the first leg started from Aarhus, Denmark, on Sunday July 7 and the fastest ships reached Helsinki on Monday July 15. From Wednesday to Saturday all the ships were berthed for everyone to admire in Hietalahti on the western coast of Helsinki close to the city centre. Almost everyone came to have a stroll around the harbour area with their camera as the tall ships hadn’t been seen in Helsinki since 2000.

Mir from Russia.
Cisne Branco from Brazil and Roald Amundsen from Germany.
According to Sail Training International, The Tall Ships Races is the second largest spectator sport or exhibition event after the Olympics. The local organizers of the four-day event expected half a million visitors, which was reached. Quite an achievement in a country with no more than 5.4 million inhabitants.

Cisne Branco from Brazil.
Tenacious from the UK.

I am sure everyone who attended was most pleased and impressed. We certainly were. We drove to Helsinki twice just for the ships, first on Friday to see the glorious sight of them berthed in the harbour and then on Saturday to witness them gliding away from Helsinki towards the second leg to Riga, Latvia (my post on the departure here).

Statsraad Lehmkuhl from Norway and Wylde Swan from the Netherlands.
Wasn’t there an abundance of marvels to see! Often two, three or even four ships were docked side by side. Some were big, others were huge and having them all gathered together around the dock was brilliantly monumental.

Shtandart from Russia.
The weather was very variable on Friday turning from sunshine to rain and back again within minutes. The ‘spectators’ didn’t mind but continued to queue to the dozen or so vessels that were still open for visitors on their last afternoon in Helsinki.

Götheborg from Sweden.

One of the vessels attracting visitors the most was the Swedish Götheborg. It is a detailed replica of the 18th century vessel of the same name that sank off Gothenburg in 1745 and was recovered in 1984. The new Götheborg was built using the original traditional methods as much as possible – even the ropes are of hemp and the sails of linen – but for safety reasons the inside is equipped with modern technology and facilities. Götheborg was not open for visitors on Friday so we had to settle for the exterior.

Alexander von Humboldt II from Germany and Fryderyk Chopin from Poland.

Above another of the many main attractions: Alexander von Humboldt II, a German training ship.

Kruzenstehrn from Russia.

For some reason the Russian training ship Kruzenstehrn, one of the world’s largest sailing vessels, had been moved outside the event area but despite the rain we spotted it in the distance. They were probably preparing to host some special guests away from the bustle on the last night before setting sail towards the next destination.

Some of us took the most of the rare occasion.

Mir from Russia in the distance.

These must be crew members as the Hietalahti harbour area was closed for visitors’ boats. There was so much to see it was impossible to notice every detail. Below a few of the beautiful figureheads that managed to catch my eye.

Finally, the crowd favourite was the crew of the huge Mexican training ship Cuauhtemoc. They are famous for charming the audience on arrival, on departure and every day in between. I believe they deserve a post of their own (here).

Cuauhtemoc from Mecixo.


  1. On hienoja kuvia! Tuttujakin aluksia näkyi: Mir, jonka olen nähnyt sekä Turussa että Maarianhaminassa ja tietysti ALBANUS jonka kotisatama on Maarianhamina, mutta joka nyt on "lainassa" mantereella. Itse ajattelin juuri tänään että kun minulla on huomenna vapaapäivä niin menisin kuvaamaan Maarianhaminan vierassatamien laivoja. Saa nähdä jos säät suosivat!

    1. Tämä oli niin upea ja hyvin järjestetty tapahtuma, että maltan tuskin odottaa, koska saamme laivat seuraavan kerran Suomeen. Turussa ja Kotkassa ei tullut aikanaan käytyä eikä 13 vuotta sitten edellisellä kerralla Helsingissäkään kunnolla.

  2. What a sight! How many vessels were there? Must have been a breathtaking view with thier sails open.

    1. I believe there were altogether 114 tall ships and lots of small ones greeting them away on Saturday. However, they opened the sails properly at a lighthouse off Helsinki so we couldn't see them in their full grandeur.

  3. Your pictures are wonderful and bring back memories of when the Tall Ships Race last visited Weymouth in 1994. The ships are magnificent and the atmosphere is wonderful. I also noticed The Pelican of London in your photos that is often seen in Weymouth harbour. It must be an incredible experience for those taking part.
    Sarah x

    1. The ocean is a frightening element to me but isn't it a wonderful thing that this kind of a sailing tradition is kept alive and taught to those who can handle it.