Hartlepool’s own tall ship set sail on the start of a new two-month adventure yesterday.
The Black Diamond of Durham, which is based at Hartlepool Marina, left town to compete in this year’s Tall Ships Races.
This year’s crew of enthusiastic volunteers will help steer the yacht hundreds of miles visiting countries including Belgium, Holland, Portugal and Spain.
Training yacht Black Diamond, owned by Barry Nelson, is the only tall ship from the region and has been competing in the races every year since 1997 without fail.
Skipper Calvyn Whitehand said: “The Tall Ships Races is one of the biggest trips we do a year with young people.
“It is the 60th anniversary so it is pretty cool being part of a historic landmark.
“It is going to be nice to get down into some sunshine hopefully.”
The crew’s first destination is Antwerp in Belgium next week where they will meet up with other teams entering the race.
Then it is back to England for the start of the 350-mile races proper from Torbay in Devon.
There will be numerous changes of crew along the way with no more than 10 at any one time on the compact 45-feet long Black Diamond.
Jess Clarke, 21, from London, who sailed on Black Diamond in 2015, said: “It was fun last year. I’m quite looking forward to going to Portugal and Spain.”
It is the first time in the races for 17-year-old Karen Young, who is originally from Hong Kong and now living in Edinburgh.
She said: “I started sailing last September for my gold Duke of Edinburgh award and it was really fun so I wanted to do something like this again.”
And Robyn Savage, 19, from Chester-le-Street who signed up after seeing an advert in college, said: “I’m looking forward to the adventure.”
Having brought silverware back over the last nine years we are looking another first in the 2016 races.
Last year, Black Diamond took overall first place in her category, while Calvin, 33, was the longest-serving skipper.
Mate Bill Rayner, who has been part of the races with Black Diamond for the last five years, said: “We have got a long race this time. The race from Torbay to Lisbon is a recreation of the first one in 1956.
“I was a bit young to be on board but I can remember it.”
Black Diamond is due to return home from La Coruna in Spain in late August.