Tall Ships® Atlantic Challenge 2009
Series Overview

Sail training tall ships from around the world participated in the Tall Ships® Atlantic Challenge 2009, a spectacular odyssey around the North Atlantic Ocean of more than 7,000 nautical miles following the traditional route taken by sailing ships of a by-gone age.

Ships and crew participated in an exiting and competivie series and host ports in mainland Spain, the Canary Islands, Bermuda, the US, Canada and Northern Ireland provided a fabulous welcome for the fleet and trainee crews.

  Vigo, Spain April 30 - May 3, 2009
  Tenerife, Canary Islands May 14 - 17, 2009
  Hamilton, Bermuda June 11 - 15, 2009
  Charleston, SC, USA June 26 - 29, 2009
  Boston, MA, USA July 8 - 13, 2009
  Halifax, NS, Canada July 16 - 20, 2009
  Belfast, UK August 13 - 16, 2009

On a spectacular July day, the TALL SHIPS® ATLANTIC CHALLENGE fleet set their sails and departed Boston, Massachusetts for the sixth host port in the transatlantic series, Halifax, Nova Scotia. For the past three weeks, the fleet had been hosted first by Charleston, South Carolina and then by Boston. In between the port events, nine tall ships representing seven countries raced up the coast braving dicey weather, doldrums and heat. After years of careful planning, hundreds of invitations and thousands of nautical miles, the TALL SHIPS® ATLANTIC CHALLENGE had finally begun.

Billed as “the race of the decade”, this trans-Atlantic event was the culmination of years of hard work on both sides of the pond. Working with Sail Training International (STI), based in Gosport, United Kingdom, the American Sail Training Association (ASTA) eagerly welcomed the international fleet of tall ships to the Eastern shores of the United States.

Arriving from the tall ships event in Bermuda, eighteen vessels berthed along the waterfront in Charleston, South Carolina. Despite heat in the high nineties, thousands of people showed up to board vessels representing Russia, Romania, Belgium, the Netherlands, Uruguay, Bermuda, England, France, Germany and the United States. An international soiree was thrown one night and featured ship tours, food, drinks, and live music and entertainment. It was a warm and wonderful night that highlighted the majesty of the tall ships and their crews.

The Parade of Sail out of Charleston was lovely with crowds lined up all along the harbor and surrounding islands, bidding a fond farewell to the tall ships. All of the sailors were the recipients of that famous Southern Hospitality that Charleston is best known for and many were sad to leave. Starting in the late afternoon, the ships made their way out of the harbor behind the U.S. Coast Guard Barque Eagle and ultimately followed by the Spirit of South Carolina. There were hundreds of spectator boats, many more than was expected considering it was a sultry Monday afternoon. As the ships made their way past Fort Sumter and out to sea, the spectator boats stayed behind in the harbor, forming a forlorn line of goodbyes. As the ships mustered for the start, raindrops began to fall and the weather forced the vessels to take their own time at the race start.

Ten days later, the ships arrived at Boston Harbor for the Sail Boston event. Thirty five vessels lined the harbor and millions of people came down to the waterfront. Five perfect summer days ensured that the event was a complete success. Vessels representing Argentina, Portugal and Brazil joined the fleet that had sailed up from Charleston. Boston is a city rich in maritime history and the tall ships fit smartly into the harbor view. Night receptions on board vessels filled the air with laughter and music, while the ships looked beautiful as their rigging was lit with strands of light.

Early on a Monday morning, the ships slipped out of their berths and headed north to Canada for the port event in Halifax, Nova Scotia. From there, they participated in the final leg of the TALL SHIPS® ATLANTIC CHALLENGE as they raced across the Atlantic to Belfast, Northern Ireland for the conclusion of the 7,000 nautical mile trans-Atlantic odyssey that started in May in Vigo, Spain.

The Tall Ships® Atlantic Challenge 2009 was organized by Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge Limited (a wholly owned company of Sail Training International) in collaboration with Tall Ships America (a member of Sail Training International). Host ports and activities outside the USA were organized by Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge Limited. Host ports and activities in the USA were organized by Tall Ships America.

Tall Ships America • 221 3rd St., Bldg. 2, Ste. 101• Newport, RI 02840 USA • (401) 846-1775 • asta@tallshipsamerica.org