Visiting the Tall Ships Race in Sunderland

Sunderland, in the north-east of England, is the starting point for the 2018 Tall Ships Race. More than fifty tall ships were docked in the Port of Sunderland until Saturday 14 July when the vessels set sail to Esbjerg, in Denmark, during the first leg of the race. Thinking of visiting the Tall Ships Race in Sunderland? Take a look at this post.

A glorious summer day sees ships docked on the River Wear in Sunderland during the 2018 Tall Ships Race.
A glorious summer day sees ships docked on the River Wear in Sunderland during the 2018 Tall Ships Race.

Visiting the tall ships race in Sunderland

I took the opportunity to visit the Port of Sunderland to board and look around several of the tall ships. The participating vessels are divided into four categories. The largest ships (Class A) are square-riggers of over 40 metres in length.

On the Wear. The Fryderyk Chopin, one of the Class A vessels participating in the 2018 Tall Ships Race.
On the Wear. The Fryderyk Chopin, one of the Class A vessels participating in the 2018 Tall Ships Race.

There are some real beauties docked on the River Wear. Visiting Sunderland for the Tall Ships Race provided some outstanding photo opportunities. With the sky blue and the sun shining, the ships and their crews proved a joy to photograph.

Firework shows, musical entertainment and street performers feature among the programme of free entertainment while the tall ships are on Wearside.

No, this isn't the latest fashion in Sunderland.! Musicians on the way to a performance. The women are wearing historic costumes.
No, this isn’t the latest fashion in Sunderland.! These women are musicians on the way to a performance and wearing historic costumes.

Cirque Bijou world record attempt

Members of Cirque Bijou will attempt to break a world record on the evening of Friday 13 July — hopefully they are not superstitious!

At 9.00pm Johanne Humblet plus Phoebe and Chris Bullzini will set out to walk a 220-metre long, inclined high wire that reaches to a height of 30 metres. No, they won’t have a safety net.

Cirque Bijou will be using something very different to this rope, coiled on the deck of a sailing ship, during their world record attempt!
Cirque Bijou will be using something very different to this rope, coiled on the deck of a sailing ship, during their world record attempt.

Ships on the River Wear

The biggest ship docked in Sunderland during the Tall Ships Race is the Mir, a Russian ship whose home port is St Petersburg. Berthed on the Corporation Quay she is 94.80 metres long and has a crew of up to 200 sailors.

Members of Mir, the Russian ship that is the largest vessel docked at the Port of Sunderland during the 2018 Tall Ships Race.
Members of Mir, the Russian ship that is the largest vessel docked at the Port of Sunderland during the 2018 Tall Ships Race.

Several of the ships docked on the River Wear are relatively new vessels. The Alexander von Humboldt II resembles one of the windjammers that sailed the high seas a century and a half ago but was launched in 2011. The ship provides sailing opportunities to people of all ages. I managed to photograph the crew as the paraded through the port.

Playing to the camera! The crew of the Alexander von Humboldt II enjoying participating in the 2018 Tall Ships Race during a parade in Sunderland.
Playing to the camera! The crew of the Alexander von Humboldt II enjoying participating in the 2018 Tall Ships Race during a parade in Sunderland.

It’s now hard to imagine the banks of the River Wear being a hive of industry. Yet, by tonnage of ships launched, Sunderland was the biggest ship building town in the world into the 1950s. During World War Two, 27 per cent of all the merchant ships launched in the United Kingdom slipped down ramps into the Wear.

That story is told in the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. The museum is displaying a painting of Admiral Lord Nelson, loaned from the National Portrait Gallery in London, in the Naval Heroes exhibition that continues until 22 July.

A mural depicting shipbuilding in Sunderland. It stands by the bank of the River Wear.
A mural depicting shipbuilding in Sunderland. It stands by the bank of the River Wear.

The 2018 Tall Ships Race

The tall ships will leave their moorings for the Parade of Sail on the afternoon of 14 July. The vessels will depart from a position close to Roker Pier at around 5pm.

The first leg of the 2018 Tall Ships Race will see the ships sail to Esbjerg, in Denmark (where they will be docked from 18 to 21 July) before moving on to Stavanger in Norway (26-29 July) then Harlingen in the Netherlands (3-6 August).

Sailing ships docked by the National Glass Centre in Sunderland during the Tall Ships Race,.
Sailing ships docked by the University of Sunderland and National Glass Centre during the Tall Ships Race.

Travel by Metro and rail

St Peters is the closest Metro station to the National Glass Centre and the sailing ships docked by the University of Sunderland’s Sir Tom Cowie Campus. From there you can walk across the Wearmouth Bridge to visit the ships in the Hudson Dock and along the south bank of the River Wear. For those, you also have the option of disembarking at Sunderland Central Station, which is within walking distance of the Port of Sunderland.

Makkum or Mackem? A Dutch flag flies from the stern of the Wylde Swan, from Makkum, during theTall Ships Race at Sunderland . Sunderland's inhabitants are nicknamed Mackems.
Makkum or Mackem? A Dutch flag flies from the stern of the Wylde Swan, from Makkum, during theTall Ships Race at Sunderland . Sunderland’s inhabitants are nicknamed Mackems.

Driving to see the tall ships in Sunderland

Car parking spaces close to St Peters and the Port of Sunderland will be in high demand during the Tall Ships Race. A park and ride scheme is in operation (pre-booked tickets are priced at £10 a day for up to four people (additional tickets are priced at £4 per person), at six locations across the city (Deptford Terrace, Downhill, Fulwell Quarry, Herrington Country Park, Seaburn Camp, Stadium of Light (Hay Street).

Sunshine on Wearside. 'Sun' appears in Sunderland 365 days a year. 366 during leap years.
Sunshine on Wearside. ‘Sun’ appears in Sunderland 365 days a year. 366 during leap years. Really.

Food and drink

Thinking about where to eat and drink? Stalls and trucks serving food and drink will be located along the waterfront and next to the St Peters Metro station.

Sailing ships, including the Zenobe Gramme, at the Hudson Dock in the Port of Sunderland.
Sailing ships, including the Zenobe Gramme, at the Hudson Dock in the Port of Sunderland.

Further information

Find out more about the programme of events and activities planned in Sunderland during the Tall Ships Race on the Tall Ships Sunderland website.

The See It Do It Sunderland has information about tourist attractions and places to stay on Wearside.

See the Visit England website for further ideas about things to do and see in the country’s north-east.

Illustrating photography is by Why Eye Photography, a north-east based photography company specialising in travel, food and drink, events and portrait photography. Want to commission a shoot? Get in touch by calling 07947 587136 or via the Why Eye Photography website.

Stuart Forster, the author of this post, is an award-winning journalist. He is based in the north-east of England and available for commissions.

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Blissful blue sky. Ships on the River Wear during the Tall Ships Race at Sunderland.
Blissful blue sky and a beautiful summer’s day. Ships on the River Wear during the Tall Ships Race at Sunderland.

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