After years of planning, Hartlepool welcomes the Tall Ships back to the North-East this weekend. Dani Webb watches the first ships arrive – and learns all about the history of the event.

UP to a million people are expected to visit Hartlepool for its biggest ever party this weekend.

The first of the 66 Tall Ships racing from Kristiansand, in Norway, have already made it into the marina to watching crowds.

But the four-day of entertainment and activities will officially start when the event is opened tomorrow lunchtime.

Organisers are working round-the-clock to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

Final preparations are being made to the Tall Ships Village, which will host a lot of the entertainment over the coming days.

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond is urging people, young and old, to join the fun.

He said: “It’s so exciting to finally welcome the Tall Ships to Hartlepool and see four years of planning come together.

“Over the free four-day spectacular, we hope visitors and residents alike will see a show they won’t forget.

“With more than 60 vessels coming into berth, plus a packed programme of events, live music, fireworks and much more you’ll be spoilt for choice for things to see and do.

“The event will culminate in a Grand Farewell on Tuesday when the fleet will leave Hartlepool and travel along the coastline in an amazing Parade of Sail.”

Light winds have meant the race has had to be shortened to ensure all the ships make it into Hartlepool in time.

1 day to go Countdown to The Tall Ships 2010 However, onlookers were not disappointed as they watched ships arrive yesterday.

Indonesian ship Dewaruci was the first Class A ship to make it to shore, following the arrival on Wednesday of Class D ships Hansa and Spaniel.

Challenger 2 and Challenger 4, Lietuva, Dashar, Dar Szczecina and the Tomidi have also made it across the North Sea.

Mr Drummond added: “A lot of hard work has gone into making sure the event runs smoothly and leaves a lasting legacy for the town.

“We hope local people really get behind us to welcome the expected one million visitors and make the whole event a bumper success and one which will live in all our memories for years to come.”

Floating a few ideas for alternative entertainment

THE Tall Ships Races extravaganza will provide a range of entertainment and activities for visitors to enjoy.

Captains and their crews will allow access to their ships throughout the fourday event for people to learn about traditional sailing.

There will be a crew parade tomorrow and prizes for the winners of the race from Kristiansand, in Norway.

The skies will be lit up with a fireworks display on each of the first three evenings, including the eve of sail, which is often regarded as the most spectacular part of the event.

One of the most popular moments is expected to be the grand farewell with boats lined up alongside each other.

Aside from the obvious interest in the Tall Ships, organisers are putting on a variety of entertainment in the specially-created village, beside the marina.

There will be four days of free live music, with bands such as Ocean Colour Scene, Echo and the Bunnymen, Doves and Seth Lakeman.

Other highlights include street theatre, a world market, celebrity chefs, street theatre, a folk festival and BBC’s Bang Goes The Theory.

The Town Moor Fair and Headland Carnival runs until the end of Saturday.

In addition, the town’s award-winning attractions – Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience, HMS Trincomalee and the Museum of Hartlepool – are putting on exhibitions.

A full events programme, is available at hartlepool or call 01429-523636.

Race where the competitors are rigged

What are the Tall Ships Races?

The Tall Ships Races is an internationally-acclaimed annual competition organised by charitable trust Sail Training International and held every summer in European waters.

Each year, up to 100 vessels from about 20 countries, crewed by about 6,000 young people from around the world, take part in this unique event that combines four days of activities in each port with racing between those ports.

What is a Tall Ship?

A Tall Ship is a large traditionally-rigged sailing vessel. The term Tall Ship came into widespread use in the middle of the 20th Century with the creation of the Tall Ships Races, and was not generally used before this time.

What is the aim of the Tall Ships Races?

The main aim of the event is to provide an opportunity for young people to develop their personal skills in a challenging and memorable sail-training environment.

At least 50 per cent of a Tall Ship’s crew must be aged between 15 and 25.

When was the first Tall Ships Race held?

The first Tall Ships Race was held in 1956. It was a race of 20 of the world’s remaining large sailing ships organised by London lawyer Bernard Morgan.

The race was from Torquay to Lisbon, in Portugal, and was meant to be a final farewell to this type of sailing ships. However, public interest was so high, race organisers founded Sail Training International to turn it into an annual event, to be enjoyed by millions.

Why is Hartlepool hosting the event?

It was back in 2005 when the Tall Ships Races were brought to the attention of the people of Hartlepool.

Newcastle was hosting the event, but some of the boats were berthed in Hartlepool Marina. It was so successful that many people involved asked Hartlepool to bid to be its host this year. It will be the largest free event in the UK this year.

Where will the next year’s event take place?

Next year’s event, which will run from June 30 and August 8, will race from Waterford, in Ireland, to Greenock, in Scotland, before cruising to Lerwick, in the Shetlands, for a race to Stavanger, in Norway. A third race will then take place to Halmstad, in Sweden.