Bermuda is to host an international tall ships festival next year, according to the group Tall Ships Bermuda.

It has been hailed as a historic event, given that the Island will be hosting the America’s Cup at the same time.

The organisation issued a statement this afternoon confirming that Bermuda would serve as the host port for the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta, RDV2017,

The RDV2017 is a transatlantic race covering 7,000 nautical miles, including a circumnavigation of the North Atlantic Ocean that includes six countries.

Bermuda will become the centre of maritime attraction during early June 2017 with the 35th America’s Cup Races, J-Class yacht regatta and the Tall Ships festival and races occurring at the same time.

“The world’s Tall Ship Fleet has never before graced the same port at the same time as an America’s Cup event,” said John Wadson, chairman of Tall Ships Bermuda.

“Bermuda will be making history by playing host to a combined maritime event of epic proportions.”

Shawn Crockwell, the Minister of Tourism Development and Transport, said the Bermuda Government was pleased to support an event that would in particular give young adults a chance to sail in “life-changing voyages on various legs of the race”.

“The Bermuda Tall Ships Festival will provide an amazing backdrop for the America’s Cup events.”

The statement continues: “RDV2017 will mark the 150th Anniversary of the Canadian Confederation. The event is being organised by Sail Training International and expects to attract a fleet of 40 Tall Ships and provide opportunities for 3,000 trainees — including trainees from Bermuda — to sail across the Atlantic or perhaps a shorter leg of the race.”

The regatta will begin on April 13 with the fleet racing from Royal Greenwich, UK to Sines, Portugal. In early May, the fleet will race to Bermuda and the Bermuda Tall Ships Festival will take place on Front Street, Hamilton from 1 — 5 June.

The fleet stops over in Bermuda for four days before they race to Boston and on to Quebec City. The fleet will then race back across the Atlantic to Le Havre, France.”

Mr Wadson commented that Bermuda had long enjoyed a warm cultural, historical, educational and maritime relationship with Canada, so it was fitting that Bermuda pay homage to Canada as it celebrated its historic milestone.

“This is going to be an enormous initiative for Tall Ships Bermuda and it just would not be possible without the upfront support of the Bermuda Government, the Bermuda Tourism Authority, the Corporation of Hamilton, and of course, The America’s Cup organisers. We are indeed grateful for their support and encouragement.”

Tall Ships Bermuda expects representation from European, American and Canadian vessels. In addition, it expects that some of the South and Central American vessels will join the fleet in Bermuda on route to Boston and the Quebec celebrations.

Bermuda has successfully hosted several Tall Ships Festivals, from the very first transatlantic Tall Ships Race in 1964 and with subsequent festivals here in 1976, 1984, 2000 and the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge in 2009 which was a celebration of Bermuda’s 400th Anniversary of permanent settlement.

Tall Ships Bermuda noted that there will be opportunities for corporate sponsorship and entertainment. They will also be looking for sponsors to nominate trainees and involve their staff in volunteering for the Tall Ships Festival. Mr Wadson noted, “Our sponsors and volunteers have always contributed enormously to the success of this kind of event. Hosting a major event of this kind has its financial challenges but we are confident that the business community, sports and service organisations and the general public will support the event as they have in the past.”

Minister of Economic Development, The Hon. Dr. Grant Gibbons said, “Anyone who saw our most recent Tall Ships Festivals — and the America’s Cup Louis Vuitton World Series event last year — will remember the huge excitement and community goodwill these events bring to the Island. The Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta and the Bermuda Tall Ships Festival will see magnificent sailing ships of the past grace Bermuda waters with modern America’s Cup vessels. This memorable and historic occasion will provide unprecedented spectator opportunities and a fun-filled festival atmosphere for our residents and visitors alike.”

“The Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta is a fantastic event to return to the Island” said Mike Winfield, CEO, America’s Cup Bermuda.

“As it will take place during the America’s Cup match qualifiers, tall ship sailors and visitors will have the opportunity to experience the excitement of the races first hand and the event village in Dockyard. We look forward to this wonderful event for Bermuda. The obvious comparison of these historic and magnificent sailing vessels to the most modern of sailing boats is a wonderful and exciting visual treat that will be enjoyed by Bermuda residents and the world through the media reach being created by the AC.”

Bermuda Tourism Authority CEO Bill Hanbury added “The return of this spectacular event helps us remind the world of Bermuda’s maritime heritage and nautical accessibility, key message points as we position Bermuda as the sailing capital of the Atlantic. We will tell potential visitors they can come to Bermuda and enjoy high-tech, high speed America’s Cup catamarans and classically majestic tall ships at the same time. Nowhere else in the world is that possible. This is another positive development in our #RacetoBermuda excitement.”

This story appeared in the Royal Gazette on February 11th, 2016.

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