Tall Ships Parade at Kiel Week, the world’s biggest regatta and sailing event (2009, Wikipedia)

Rich in maritime history and home of the Cutty Sark, Greenwich will host the five-day Tall Ships Regatta, organised by Sail Training International. The ships set sail from Falmouth on 31 August to race to the Needles on the western tip of the Isle of Wight before docking in South East London.

More than 50 tall ships from around the world will drop anchor in the waters around the historical maritime landmarks of London’s Royal Borough of Greenwich from 5-9 September, to take part in a festival marking the end of the Falmouth to Greenwich Tall Ships race.

With names such as Tenacious, Eye of the Wind and JR Tolkien, these majestic vessels will sail past attractions including the Old Royal Naval College and Cutty Sark, to berth along the River Thames at Greenwich, Royal Arsenal Woolwich, Wood Wharf (Canary Wharf), Enderby Wharf and Victoria Deep Water Dock.

The five-day event is organised by Sail Training International (STI), a charity that provides young people with the opportunity to gain sail training skills. It is free to attend and will include family-friendly activities such as theatre performances, poetry reading, music and a series of seminars on a range of maritime subjects and nautical historical topics. Those keen to experience life on the high seas can join daily sailing trips up the River Thames to London Bridge.

It is only the second time London has hosted such a regatta, which began in 1956 with a race from Torbay to Lisbon, to commemorate what was presumed to be the end an era for the Class A tall ships. Its popularity convinced STI to run an event every two years. Now sail training organisations in other countries including America, Australia and New Zealand hold similar annual celebrations.

In keeping with the original purpose of the tall ships race, to ‘bring together the world’s seafaring youth in friendly rivalry while providing them with sail training’ and ‘personal development’, all the ships are manned by a combination of experienced and trainee sailors. Trainees range in ages from 15 to 25.

The 607-tonne (approximately 150 average sized elephants) Santa Maria Manuela from Portugal is the largest ship taking part in the 2014 regatta, while the smallest, at just 12.34 metres, is the UK-based OD 1. Both the oldest Leila (launched in 1882) and the youngest, Grayhound (2012) are UK-based.

The Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival 2014 will be the biggest gathering of tall ships in London for 25 years and a list of ships participating as well as a schedule of events is available here.