Sunderland bids to follow Hartlepool and host Tall Ships Race

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A BID is being launched to bring the Tall Ships Race to Sunderland for the first time.

Businesses across the city are being urged to “nail their colours to the mast” to support the bid which could lead to the famous race coming to our shores in 2018.

Captain Amillar Villavicencio aboard his Equadorian tall ship the Guayas, in Dublin Port as part of a previous Tall Ships Race

Captain Amillar Villavicencio aboard his Equadorian tall ship the Guayas, in Dublin Port as part of a previous Tall Ships Race

Although the race has been held in Newcastle and Hartlepool, ploughing millions of pounds into the local economy, it has never been held in Sunderland in its almost 60-year history.

Sail Training International, which organises the race, is looking for a North Sea port to be part of the 2018 race, and Sunderland’s Music, Arts and Culture (Mac) Trust and Sunderland City Council have joined forces to convince it to choose the mouth of the Wear.

If their bid is successful, it could see about a million visitors come to the city to admire the ship’s imposing masts.

John Mowbray, from Mac Trust, the charity behind the bid to create a cultural quarter around the city’s Old Fire Station, said: “The reason we’re putting this bid forward is because we believe it’s something that is possible in Sunderland.

“We’ve talked to the council and the port, and Sunderland is able to host this race.

“It’s something that other ports in the area have done, but Sunderland is actually probably better suited than them, especially as our city centre is so close to the river.”

Not only is Tall Ships a visual spectacle, it can create a real boost to the economy thanks to visitors, and usually sparks a host of cultural activity around the event.

It sees up to 100 vessels from around 20 countries sail to ports in European waters.

Mac Trust has urged local businesses to back the bid to prove to Sail Training International that the race would be well supported.

The bid comes on the back of much regeneration in the city and John says the event in 2018 would be the feather in the cap of developments such as the new public square.

“Sail Training International seem keen, but I don’t know who else they are talking to. It may be that they choose a port they have used before,” he said.

“However, this puts a marker down and gives us something to aim for. Sixty years ago, Sunderland was the largest shipbuilding town on the planet producing 25 per cent of the UK shipping tonnage and, as well as the economic benefits of the race, it would be amazing to see historic ships on the river once more.”

Coun Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “This event is a few years away and much could happen in the years to come, but a bid is definitely worth considering.

“It’s in keeping with our international strategy and our strong record of hosting world-class events in Sunderland.”

The bid will be submitted on September 12.