The Tall Ships Set Sail
Powerful 18th and 19th century sailing ships converge on Boston
by David Johnson
Graceful, dramatic, and powerful, the sailing ships of the 18th and 19th centuries, known as tall ships, have inspired writers and adventurers. From July 11–16, 2000, more than 100 tall ships from all over the world converged on Boston, as part of a four-month series of races. The tall ships last visited Boston in such numbers in 1992.
Full Sail Across the Atlantic
In mid-April, two fleets gathered separately, in Southampton, England, and Genoa, Italy, and raced to Cadiz, Spain. Joined as one fleet, the ships then raced to Bermuda, arriving in the second week of June. After a four-day celebration in Bermuda, the ships sailed up the East Coast to Charleston, South Carolina; Wilmington, Delaware; New York City; and Newport, Rhode Island, to Boston. After another celebration, the ships will depart for Halifax, Nova Scotia.
After four days for rest and stocking supplies, the crews faced their most strenuous test, a 3,000-mile race to Amsterdam. When it was all over, the ships completed a 10,000-mile long circumnavigation of the North Atlantic Ocean.
Battered, But Never Beaten
As home to the most famous tall ship in the United States, the USS Constitution, Boston is an appropriate host for the gathering. Known as Old Ironsides, the Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship in the world still afloat. Ordered by President George Washington, the 44-gun frigate has gone to battle 33 times against the French, the British, and pirates of the Barbary Coast. She delivered troops to what is now Vietnam after the War of 1812, and later patrolled the African coast to fight the slave trade.