Tall ships find refuge from high seas for festival

The sails were shredded by the wind, some had their masts broken, and others were stripped of power systems and water but the tall ships and their crews made it to Dublin.

Some of the 40 ships took a battering to reach the safety of ports here and are berthed at points extending from Belfast to Kinsale.

However, all should arrive on Dublin’s quays midweek for the Tall Ships Races Festival, which starts on Thursday and runs for four days.

Organisers believe it will bring between €25m and €30m into the local economy, and attract about 1m visitors.

Events range from the appeal of the magnificent ships, spread across Classes A to D, along with live music from Therapy?, Ash, and The Undertones, and will include everything from street performers to screenings of films such as Jaws on the River Liffey.

All events are free and organisers yesterday emphasised they wanted families to come and enjoy the atmosphere along the quays and surrounding areas.

The main attraction will be the ships, the oldest of which was built in 1906 and the longest of which stretches almost 103m.

Some have limped in, bashed by a storm en route from Spain, but all will be spit-polish perfect by Thursday.

Gardaí have asked attendees to use public transport where possible. Those attending the Cork-Donegal All-Ireland football semi-final are being urged to bear in mind the East Link bridge will be closed from 11am to 12.30pm on Sunday and there will be traffic restrictions elsewhere.

The last time the tall ships came to Dublin was in 1998. Two years ago the spectacle in Waterford attracted almost 500,000 visitors.

At a press briefing yesterday, Capt Amillar Villavicencio, skipper of the Ecuadorian Class-A ship the Guayas, said he was delighted to be in “the land of the poets, the land of the writers”.

Despite having its sails torn en route from La Coruña in Spain, his ship was in shape yesterday to welcome aboard not just visiting media but also an Irish navy delegation.

Lt Elizabeth Barrett seemed to receive a particularly warm welcome from Capt Villavicencio, who even dropped his hand on her leg while they posed for a photo in the ship’s recreation area, sparking the Irishwoman into gales of embarrassed laughter.

The captain wasn’t the only salty sea dog in evidence yesterday. The master of the Polish ship, the Class-B Kapitan Borchardt, is 70-year-old Janusz Zbierajewski.

Despite this being only his second visit to Ireland, he is a fanatical proponent of The Dubliners and claims ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ is his favourite sea shanty, even referencing cover versions by Thin Lizzy and Metallica.

His ship has 38 crew, including eight from Ireland, and was built in 1918. A resident of Warsaw, he spoke behind a nicotine-stained beard and claimed to be have an official whiskey-tasting diploma, having passed a blindfold taste test.

“Only at the sea do I feel a free man,” he said. “If I retire, I will die.” Or as the motto on the wheel of Guayas, freshly polished yesterday, states: “Vencer o morir” — win or die.

No doubt visitors to the ships this weekend might hear a few shanties to that effect.

* Full programme at www.dublintallships.ie


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