Sail Training International has announced that due to the COVID-19 outbreak the Tall Ships Races 2020 has been postponed until next year – the first time this has happened since the event was first held in 1956.
The Tall Ships Race is a huge public celebration of youth development and international friendship. During the Cold War years, it was almost alone in bringing together large numbers of young people from both sides of the Iron Curtain – an achievement that resulted in a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
In 2019, over 4,000 young people from 59 different nations took part on 87 vessels. Nearly 6 million visitors went to see the ships in six different ports. The 2020 event was scheduled to start in Lisbon on 2 July and finish in Dunkerque on 9 August, visiting Cadiz and A Coruna en route.
Jonathan Cheshire, Chair of Sail Training International, the UK-based charity that coordinates worldwide sail training, said:
“It is a great sadness to us and this year’s host ports to have to postpone the event until next year, but we all agree that a public gathering of this size is out of the question in the midst of a pandemic. We feel for all the young people who will be disappointed by the decision, but public health and safety must take priority. The financial impact on the charity will be serious, but survivable; and before the outbreak, we had just commenced a search for new sponsorship to put the event on a more secure long-term footing.
“We are determined that the postponed event next year will be as rich and rewarding an experience as usual. The interaction between young people from so many nations, on board and in port, is a powerful catalyst for cross-cultural tolerance and understanding. The experience of life at sea gives young people unparalleled opportunities to learn responsibility, self-confidence, trust, and teamwork. In our highly managed and mechanised world it offers unmediated contact with one of the last great wildernesses.”