Who Is Sail Training International?

May 27th 2022


Lerwick is once again fortunate enough to welcome The Tall Ships Races back, in 2023. The Races are highly regarded in Shetland - having previously been hosted here in 1999 and 2011.


The first Tall Ship Races event was held in 1956 hosted by the Sail Training International Race Committee. The event itself was to be a celebration of Class A Tall Ships as they headed into retirement due to the wider introduction of diesel engines – but the event was so popular that Sail Training International, decided to hold it every two years. Since the first event the race has grown more and more popular, to now have become Europe’s largest free family festival!


Today Sail Training International is registered as a non-profit charity with a clear vision.

‘Fostering understanding across nations and cultures through providing sail training to young people around the world. Inspiring them to live a fulfilling life”

Their core values are to provide young people with valuable life experiences and to learn and develop new skills. The aim is to make sailing accessible for all, regardless of experience, background, nationality, gender, and income - with financial support available. They focus heavily on the transferable skills that are learned from sailing, such as – strong communicative skills and social confidence; the ability to overcome anxieties and challenges; learning technical sailing skills; working in a team; the ability to self-manage and self-motivate; to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the natural world and different cultures and traditions. Not to mention, that it’s a great way to strengthen a CV showing commitment, dedication, and a willingness to learn, to potential employers.


The Tall Ships Races mainly take place in Europe over the summer months. The event itself is targeted towards the 15-25 age group, but prides itself on being an inclusive event, where people of all ages and nationalities come together. The region in Europe where the event will take place is decided by Sail Training International. Authorities in the area can then put in a bid to be a host port – with four to five ports usually chosen. The tall and small ships will race against each other following a map route across the sea, stopping at various host ports along the way. When they arrive at the ports there will be four days of celebrations, where massive crowds gather to see the spectacle of the ships and to experience the exciting activities each port has to offer. This includes live music; water sports; family activities; food and drink stalls; crew parades; welcoming ceremonies; prize giving and cultural activities. The event brings welcome income to the towns and local businesses as well as national and international economic benefits.


One leg of the race is known as the Cruise In Company. This leg of the journey is in fact not a race - It is a chance to sail at a leisurely pace and appreciate the time with crewmates and the fleet, whilst fully enjoying the special entertainment put on at a series of guest harbours along the route, crews have a chance to see some cultural and tourist attractions and take part in activities and the local public have an opportunity to engage with some of the fleet.


An excerpt from Sail Training Internationals website that encapsulates the experience of sailing.

“Nothing can quite prepare you for the unforgettable atmosphere of racing. Picture yourself sailing on a beautiful Tall Ship, way out at sea, with the waves crashing against the hull, no land in sight, the sun rising behind you, and your closest competitor hot on your heels.”


Sail Training Shetland is the local organisation who recruit sail trainees each year. They have facilitated hundreds of young people to take part in Tall Ships Races since they were formed following the fleet’s last visit to Lerwick in 2011. The organisation works closely with the Swan Trust to arrange day-sail taster sessions every summer and have recently enabled over 50 local young people to have this experience. This has led to 20 of these young people being selected to take part in the 2022 races aboard a tall ship, and next year’s taster sessions will help to recruit 75 trainees for the 2023 races. For more information visit Sail Training Shetland’s website.

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