Sailing is a surprisingly high adrenaline activity. I’ve tried my hand at America’s Cup sailing in Auckland Harbour and I spent two nights cruising on a sailboat through the Whitsundays in Australia. There’s nothing quite like the rush you get when the wind’s in your sails, your boat is tipped precariously sideways, and you’re slicing through the open ocean without a care in the world.
The Tall Ships are a fleet of around 100 sail training vessels from over 30 countries, which regularly take part in races and regattas, and over the bank holiday weekend, to mark the 60th anniversary of their first ever race, the port of Blyth in England’s northeast hosted a jam-packed bank holiday weekend of celebrations, music and boat exploration, followed by a race to Gothenburg.
BOARDING BOATS IN BLYTH
Around 30 massive ships were docked in Blyth from August 26 until the race launched on bank holiday Monday. To qualify as a tall ship, each had to meet specific requirements, including a waterline length of more than 9.14 m and a crew comprised, at least by 50%, of 15 to 25 year olds. Class A ships were the largest rigged vessels at over 40 m in length, and it was possible to climb aboard some of them to explore in great detail. We chose Norway’s Christian Radich. Built in 1937, she’s over 70 m long and has almost 9000 m of rope. When she’s not racing she acts as a training ship for the Norwegian Navy, as well as hosting private parties and leading voyages for school groups.
FUN FOR EVERYONE
The Blyth Tall Ships Regatta catered really well for everyone. The kids were entertained by fairground rides, games, and fireworks in the evening, and lining the harbour were live music stages and marquees selling pork roast sandwiches, burgers and coffee. Down on the beach you could grab some fish and chips and admire the elaborate sandcastles, while in the harbour various institutions like the RNLI and Royal Navy Rescue were showcasing rescue helicopters, lifeboats, scuba diving gear and bomb disposal equipment. Other highlights included street theatre, circus acts, and an exhibition of driftwood sculptures.
PARADE OF SAIL
On the final day of the regatta, as the ships began their journey across the North Sea, musicians paraded alongside the port to wish them a fair sail. Further down the coast, Blyth Beach was packed with spectators, and the hilly outcrops around Seaton Sluice were no less busy.
JOINING THE CREW
While not the cheapest of activities, a few brave individuals with a sharp eye for adventure had pre-booked spots on board some of the vessels. For a few hundred euros they would be part of the crew for the six-day crossing, taking the helm, setting the sails and climbing the rigging while they learned the ropes from the experts.
The whole event was surprisingly popular, with the regular park and ride service constantly packed full of passengers. It was a lovely way to spend a sunny weekend in the UK, but next time, I’d like to be on board for the race!