1m visitors to drop anchor over festival weekend

“Ah! Bella!” the Italian woman exclaimed as she caught sight of the Amerigo Vespucci as it sailed up the Liffey — and she was right.

The largest of the tall ships that will be stationed in Dublin for the weekend, the Italian Vespucci was also the last of the 40-odd vessels to arrive for the four-day festival. The view from the third floor of the nearby Gibson Hotel, as it sailed majestically through the raised East Link bridge, was something to behold.

Down along the quays, it was the same. Organisers expect up to 1m visitors to attend the various events at this weekend’s festival, and the docks area, from the North Wall Quay back to the Sean O’Casey Bridge and back down to Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, were thronged yesterday afternoon, mostly with families and tourists.

Standing next to the Vespucci was Henry Abrahamian, an Armenian man who has lived in Ireland for 45 years.

He said: “In my windows in the sitting room there is replicas of all the ships here.

“I have never been on one, but today, I will.”

Taking pictures of the 102m-long ship was Ivan and Celine Tuite from Tara in Co Meath, who described it as “spectacular”. Berthed alongside the other Class A on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, it certainly is — the only ship not actually in the Tall Ships Race, but in Dublin by special invitation of the Italian ambassador.

It is in good company. Next to it on the quayside is the Mexican ship the Cuauhtemoc, which was full of eager visitors yesterday. Cadets Francisco and Josue were busy posing for pictures, but said they hoped to see some of Dublin during their four-day stay.

“It looks great,” said Francisco. “So far the people are very kind, so I hope we can spend a few hours looking around.”

Also on deck were Thomas Kelly and Christine Treacy from Longford town, and Thomas’s grandchildren Faith, 11, and Keeva, 4. The girls wrestled with the helm, having already visited the children’s area in nearby Grand Canal Dock. “They loved it,” said Christine. “It’s all fantastic.”

Extra Luas trams will run this weekend and gardaí have urged visitors to use public transport whenever possible to access the Tall Ships area, as there will be road closures. Carousels, eateries, street performers, and more were all present yesterday, as was Keith Duffy, the former Boyzone man, who was doing the honours when it came to cutting the ribbon aboard the LE Emer to officially open the festival. The novelty scissors were contained in a box marked, delightfully, “giant scissors”. Keith’s garb couldn’t have been less nautical, but Dublin Lord Mayor Naoise Ó Muirí at least made an effort, donning a 150-year-old hat that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the head of Captain Cook.

Project manager Mary Weir expressed delight at the start to the festival, but nobody was happier than Henry Abrahamian, finally on board the real Vespucci after staring at his replica for years. Dreams do come true.

* www.dublintallships.ie

Sails and tall tales

* Some weekend highlights from the Dublin Tall Ships 2012:

* The ships themselves are lined along the north and south quays from the Sean O’Casey Bridge, with the larger Class A vessels on the south quays and the Class B, C and D ships on the northside.

* Nearby Grand Canal Square has a special family area designed with children in mind, while Hanover Quay will feature skateboarding and bike stunts.

* The Festival Hub is located at the CHQ Building near the IFSC, featuring installations, stories highlighting the history of the Docklands, workshops and talks.

* The Bulmers Live Music Stage at George’s Dock, also in the IFSC, will host acts over the weekend, with Cork’s Frank and Walters taking to the stage at 5.45pm. They will be followed by Therapy? and later, The Undertones.

* Cinema buffs might want to catch some sea-based celluloid magic: tomorrow night its Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.

* The Tall Ships Parade of Sail will take place from 11am to 2pm on Sunday, during which the ships will depart along the Liffey.

* Full programme available at www.dublintallships.ie


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