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Spectacle of elegance from a bygone era

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The naval Amerigo Vespucci.

The mighty tall ships transformed Bermuda’s skyline to a scene from a bygone era during their Parade of Sail this week.

Gliding under full sail, unabashed in their grandeur, ships from around the world carrying more than 1,000 crew members, made their way from Hamilton to St George’s to prepare for the next leg of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.

The race is a 7,000 circumnavigation of the North Atlantic in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada.

Some 19 ships took part in the Parade of Sail from Hamilton to St George’s on Monday.

Enjoying glorious sunshine, the crew got a front-seat view of the island during the sail, which traditionally takes place on the day they leave. However, because of an offshore weather front, the ships returned to port in St George’s to await their anticipated departure yesterday afternoon.

The grand procession included multiple classes of ship, from the towering naval Amerigo Vespucci to the smaller Oyster yacht Rona II crewed entirely by females.

Bermuda was graced with the return of the Dutch ship Europa which took part in the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge in 2009.

The steel-hulled barque had planned to join the race on the next leg but favourable winds pushed her to Bermuda early.

As the flotilla made its approach to the Olde Towne at around noon, canons boomed from Fort Saint Catherine — to which crew members responded “we come in peace!”

The Pride of Baltimore II also let off a few canons, stirring up visions of ancient maritime battles.

On board the Resolute ferry, crew and passengers were able to enjoy two spectacles in one day — following the Parade of Sail, there was time to take in a couple of America’s Cup races on the way through the Great Sound.

While the AC45 cats coursed through the waves at 40-plus knots before turning on a dime, the tall ships brought with them a grace and elegance that is difficult to replicate.

The Spirit of South Carolina went some way to bridging the gap between the two sailing spectacles — her design is close to that of an American schooner that became known to the world in 1851. The schooner, America, defeated a fleet of British yachts in a race circumnavigating the Isle of Wight to win what was to be known as the America’s Cup.

Tall ships races such as the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta transcends the beauty of the ships and the sailing — they aim to bring people of all nationalities and backgrounds together.

Sail Training International, for which local organisers the Sail Training Association Bermuda is a founding member, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for activities in “promoting international understanding and friendship through sail training for young people”.

The Dutch schooner Oosterschelde provides a perfect example of how tall ships can impact society for the better as it takes on trainees from troubled backgrounds, those with terminal illnesses and people with disabilities. Sta Bermuda also supports the programmes of the Bermuda Sloop Foundation and Bermuda’s own tall ship The Spirit of Bermuda which invites students on educational expeditions.

Cindy Campbell, chairman of Tall Ships Bermuda, said that Bermuda’s hosting of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta was “absolutely outstanding and exceeded our expectations”.

Bermuda’s friendly charm was one of her winning attributes, Ms Campbell said. “The crews couldn’t get over how friendly and accommodating the Bermudian hosts have been.

“We had record crowds in St George’s for the welcome festival and I have heard repeatedly that the Harbour Nights on Thursday was one of the best attended events on Front Street for many years. Also, our volunteers have been some of the most dedicated. We couldn’t be happier.”

The Parade of Sail is the last of a series of events tied to their visit to the island, which included concerts, crew parades and parties in both St George’s and Hamilton.

It is the hope of local organisers that Bermuda’s story in the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta will not end with the ships leaving the island.

Beverley Morfitt, director for Sail Training Association, Bermuda, believes that with so much excitement and activity in Bermuda during the tall ships’ stay, — not only due to the numerous events they organised for the trainees while in port but also Bermuda’s hosting of the world-class America’s Cup sailing event which has brought global attention to the island — the island has a good chance of winning Best Port in the regatta.

The spirit of giving was evident even during the parade when one of the liaison officers on the Resolute, Leonard Astwood, had the ferry pull up to the Finnish ship Vahine to give its crew sandwiches, drinks and snacks left over from our lunch.

Pride of Baltimore II’s captain Jan Miles was certainly taken with the island, writing in his captain’s log: “Bermuda has hosted tall ships festivals in the past — great welcoming events on a jewel of an island in the Western North Atlantic. My compliments to Bermuda. A job very well done . . . again!”

As of Wednesday 3pm, the ships will have a 48-hour window to set off on the next leg of their journey to Boston before continuing on to the finish line — via Saint Lawrence Port, Halifax — in Le Havre in France on September 3.

There are still places available for trainees to join the next leg of the journey. Apply by e-mailing trainee@tallships.bm

The Pride of Baltimore passes the Governor's House as part of the Parade of Sail.
The Dutch barque Europa.
The flotilla of tall ships left Hamilton for St George's on Monday.
A tall ship sails by a catamaran for the Red Bull America's Cup youth team.
The Alexander von Humboldt II.
The America's Cup helicopter sweeps over a tall ship and a cruise ship.
Flotilla advances: tall ships dominate the seas