THOUSANDS of people are expected to converge on Sunderland today for the official opening of the Tall Ships Races.

More than 50 ships from around the world form the highlight of a five-day festival of music, circus, theatre and entertainment.

This morning ships continue to arrive at the port ready for four days of celebration.

Activities will be spread across four event zones; the Port of Sunderland (Zone A), the Town Moor and East End (Zone B), St Peter’s Riverside (Zone C) and Roker and Seaburn Seafront (Zone 4).

Princess Anne, herself a sailor will board two vessels and will tour the ships berthed at Manor Quay to mark the festival's opening day, before unveiling a plaque to commemorate her visit.

The Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Lynda Scanlan, said: "It was a huge honour to have the Princess Royal launch our Sail Trainee Ambassador programme in 2016 and we're delighted she has agreed to come back to Sunderland on the first official day of The Tall Ships festival."

Victoria French, Sunderland City Council's Head of Events, said: "The Tall Ships festival is only happening thanks to the hard work and enthusiasm of people across the city so it's fantastic that the Princess is going to be meeting some of the many people who have played such a crucial role in making it happen."

The event will be officially opened at the National Glass Centre by the Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Lynda Scanlan immediately before The Princess Royal's visit.

The festival has attracted sailing ships from countries as far afield as India, Russia and Vanuatu and performers from across Europe to entertain the 1.5 million people expected to attend.

It ends with the Parade of Sail on Saturday, July 14 as the ships parade northwards up the coast to Souter Point, before turning round and heading out to the North Sea for the first leg of their race to Esbjerg, Denmark before moving on to Stavanger, in Norway, from where they will race to Harlingen, in The Netherlands.

Among the vessels to arrive yesterday were the Portuguese Santa Maria Manuela from Portugal - a 225ft gaff schooner with four masts – and the stunning Shtandart from St Petersburg, Russia, which stands more than 75ft high.

There was also the 128ft long topsail schooner Etoile from Brest in France and the Maybe which is 85 years old and from England.

Visitors are advised to plan their travel in advance, as roads and public transport are likely to be busy. And they can car parking now and save money, with five park-and-ride sites available, as well as park-and-walk, blue badge and premium parking close to the event zone.

To help people find their way around the event site, a free visitor map will be handed out by event makers. An official Souvenir Event Guide and official merchandise can be bought at signposted trailers.

Many of the spectacular tall ships will be open for free visitor access during the event. Visitors can keep an eye on social media for opening times, and each ship will also display an information board with timings on. The Captains and crew will be on board to show visitors around.
The ships won’t be open to visitors on Saturday July 14, as they will be preparing to leave their berths and start the races.

More than 1,000 police officers will be on duty at the event.

The Force’s Marine Unit will be on patrol to help keep the port secure and respond to any incidents, armed officers will be deployed on the ground and motor patrols officers will be on hand to help get people on and off the site as safely and efficiently as possible.

They will be joined by the Mounted Section and Dog Section.

Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt, of Northumbria Police, said: “As a force, we have been preparing for this event for the last 16 months and we have worked with event organisers every step of the way to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible.

“While the Tall Ships itself has never before been held in Sunderland, we have a vast amount of experience in policing such large-scale events that will see thousands of visitors come into the area. We have tried and tested plans in place to deal with any eventuality.

“Our officers won’t just be there to patrol though – we are looking to engage with the public, take pictures with you and share in the pride and excitement that the Tall Ships will bring to Sunderland and South Tyneside.

“If you see our officers, make sure you come and say hello, maybe even get a selfie with them and ask about the work we do – we’ll be happy to chat.”

Entertainment will be staged on both sides of the River Wear throughout – from school choirs and brass bands to international performance artists and a high-wire spectacular from Cirque Bijou.


Plan your travel in advance as roads and public transport are likely to be busy. There will be congestion on the roads so leave extra time for your journey, be patient – and take advantage of the park and ride spaces. There is also park and walk, blue badge and premium parking close to the event zone.

Follow Northumbria Police’s social media feeds, as well as @TallShipsSund, for the latest advice.


If you’re thinking of attending The Tall Ships Races, there are a few things you can do too in order to make sure you stay safe.

Keep any personal belongings safe, and if you are driving, please make sure you have locked your vehicle and no valuables are left on show.

Make a note of prearranged meeting points in case you become lost or lose somebody, find out where your nearest First Aid or Lost Persons’ points are in each event zone, and please keep hydrated in the sunshine.

Wristbands for children and vulnerable adults will be handed out throughout the site, which include contact details for the parent/carer to help reunite them if they become separated. Speak to an officer or a nearby steward if you have any questions or problems.

Anyone who sees a crime taking place, or has concerns about someone acting suspiciously, should speak to an officer on patrol or ring police on 101. In an emergency, call 999.