The event

As the start host port for The Tall Ships Races 2018, Sunderland welcomed over 50 Tall Ships that travelled from all corners of the globe to reach the city and share in the celebrations. The weather was fantastic, with the sun shining every day on the beautiful vessels as they held centre stage at a truly breath-taking event, one of the biggest in Sunderland’s history and the largest free festival of entertainment to be held anywhere in the United Kingdom in 2018.

A captivating programme of entertainment and cultural activity was delivered across the city over five days, stretching from Port of Sunderland, a hidden gem at the heart of maritime activity in the city, over to the North banks of the River Wear, home to University of Sunderland and the award-winning National Glass Centre and also incorporated the twin coastal resorts of Roker and Seaburn, with beach sporting activities and spectacular viewing points as the ships arrived and departed.

HRH Princess Anne paid a visit and each day offered something different, keeping the crowds entertained and ensuring that The Tall Ships Races 2018 in Sunderland remains a cherished memory in the minds of visitors for many years to come.

As the event progressed, ever-increasing crowds poured in to the city for highlights which included:

  • The city welcomed more than 50 ships including the 350ft long and 170ft tall Russian giant Mir - the biggest ship in the fleet
  • The Princess Royal visited the National Glass Centre and toured some of the tall ships on the first official day of the event - on the same day, thousands of Wearside schoolchildren bid to break the world record for the most people ever to take part in a live-streamed Big Sing at the same time - and they did it!
  • A Welcome Parade with than 600 local people marching through the Port of Sunderland to welcome the ships and their crews
  • A packed programme of more than 200 live acts stretched over five days and two stages
  • The Crew Parade, hundreds of sail trainees marched, sang and danced to provide a spectacle a of noise and colour, weaving their way through the city centre
  • Hundreds of sail trainees arrived in Sunderland, ready to begin their adventure to sail on a Tall Ship to Esbjerg.
  • Cirque Bijou performed a spectacular tightrope walk above the River Wear with stunning fireworks to conclude
  • And on the last day, crowds flocked to bid farewell to the ships and witness the beautiful Parade of Sail as they left the city  

Councillor John Kelly, Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture at Sunderland City Council said: “We are delighted with the success of The Tall Ships Races, which showcased Sunderland at its best. Those visitors were lucky enough to see some truly spectacular sights, from the ships themselves and the Parade of Sail to fantastic performances, including the high-wire walk across the River Wear, which will be remembered for a long time to come.” he added “I hope a lot of them return to Sunderland, for more world-class events, and also to enjoy the many other attractions our city has to offer.”