A Tall Tale On The Higt Seas

The seas of Istanbul, 2010 European Capital of Culture, will be welcoming a fleet of magnificent sailing vessels between May 27 and 30.

Dubbed by the English the ‘Tall Ships’, these noble swans of the sea will be crossing the high seas this month to anchor in the cool waters of the Bosphorus. Spearheaded by Greece and Bulgaria with organization by Sail Training International (STI), the event, which is being realized with joint contributions by the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency and the Chamber of Maritime Commerce, goes far beyond the usual yacht race.

Competition organizers ‘STI’ were nominated for the Nobel Prize in 2007. Recognized for their efforts over 56 years to bring together all lovers of the sea without distinction of race, religion or language, to battle water pollution and to spread maritime culture, STI aims to inspire large numbers of people with a love of the sea.

Ports of call for the Historical Seas Tall Ships Regatta will be Volos (Greece) May 9-12, Varna (Bulgaria) May 21-24, Istanbul May 27-30, and Lavrion (Greece) June 4-7.

Bosphorus cruises and canoeing and rowing races will also be held on the regatta days. It is hoped that the event, a fabulous feast for the eyes, will raise awareness of, and boost interest in, maritime sports for participants as well as spectators. In addition to competing with each other, contestants in the Historical Seas Tall Ships Regatta will also have to do battle with giant waves, powerful currents and strong winds. Capturing victory in the struggle depends on developing a close-knit, harmonious team and perfect team work. A veritable festival atmosphere will reign in Istanbul during the four days the vessels are in the city.

Visiting Turkey’s territorial waters for the first time, the regatta will set the stage for other firsts as well. This will be the first time, for example, that a historic fleet of this size has ever visited the Aegean, Marmara and Black Seas, known as the ‘historical seas’ of the world. It will also be the first time such a fleet has traversed the Turkish straits, as well as the first time large sailing vessels have ever raced on open water in the Black Sea. And of course another first that should not be forgotten is that this spectacular fleet is making its first visit to Istanbul in 2010 as a guest of European Capital of Culture.

Positive changes and transformations have been observed in the environment and in city life and architecture in all regions where the regatta was held in past years. Areas where this transformation is most noticeable are the ports and their environs where the vessels dock after cleaving the frothy main. In ports the fleet has visited, important coastal improvements have been made in the years following its visit, increases have been observed in the number of tourists, there has been a rapid proliferation in infrastructure such as port facilities and marinas, and new areas of employment have been opened up.

If you live in Istanbul or have a chance of being there May 27-30, don’t miss seeing the Tall Ships in this stunning city at the crossroads of continents and cultures. Eleven different maritime events are being organized in 2010 in conjunction with European Capital of Culture activities, the Tall Ships Regatta is one of the most spectacular among them.