Tall ship Christian Radich off Torbay
Tall Ships get Royal send-off
Rain and a thick sea mist marred the start of the 50th anniversary Tall Ships Race from Torbay. Just as he did back in 1956, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh gave the signal to start the race.
His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has signalled the start of the 50th anniversary Tall Ships race from Torbay.
As Patron, the Duke started the very first Tall Ships Race in 1956, and he returned to Torbay for the 50th anniversary event.
Back then just 20 sail training ships from 10 countries took part - the fleet in 2006 consists of more than 70 ships from 20 countries.
The Duke of Edinburgh meets trainees
As the ships gathered in Torquay for the start, His Royal Highness met some of the young trainee crews, as well as some of the veterans who took part in the inaugural event and who are sailing again this year as honorary trainees.
Later the Duke travelled out to a Royal Navy warship anchored five miles off Torbay from where the starting signal was given.
Sadly spectators who came out to watch were thwarted by a combination of rain and a thick sea mist which cut visibility to just a few yards.
The size of the fleet meant it wasn't able to gather in Devon as it did 50 years ago and pre-race formalities were held in St Malo, France.
Under the rules, at least half of each crew team must be aged 15-25. Crew numbers can range from four to 300, depending on the size of the boats. A Tall Ship is defined as anything which has a mast, and the event has four different classes.
Poor visability marred the event
After the race, there will be a cruise-in-company to Cadiz and La Coruna in Spain; followed by Race 2 to Antwerp in Belguim where the final prize giving ceremonies will take place on 19-22 August.
The event is organised by Sail Training International, which was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The organisation works closely with the world's sail training Tall Ships, national sail training organisations and host ports around the world to help young people benefit from sail training experience.
The first event was organised by a group of enthusiasts calling themselves the Sail Training International Race Committee. They were worried about the diminishing number of sailing ships and wanted to highlight the issue.
Since then, more than 90 ports in Europe have hosted the Tall Ships Races and thousands of young people have taken part.
Highlights of the start will be shown on a special Tall Ships Anniversary programme on BBC ONE South West at 11pm on 10th July.
last updated: 03/06/2008 at 10:50