Tall Ships Race to Helsinki
by Kalle Id
Last week, between 17th and 20th July Helsinki, Finland was the second port to be visited during the 2013 Tall Ships Races, hosting 103 sailing vessels of various sizes and nationalities. MaritimeMatters’ Helsinki correspondent Kalle Id was on scene to visit the event.
All images are copyright © 2013 Kalle Id, except where otherwise noted.
Tall ships at the Arctech shipyard. From left to right: STATSRAAD LEHMKUHL (behind the crane), SHTANDARD, TRE KRONOR AF STOCKHOLM and CUAUHTÉMOC.
The Tall Ships Races are an annual series of races for sailing ships organized by Sail Training International. Participant ships must be at least 30 feet (9.4 metres) long and they must partake in sail training, with at least 50% of the crew aged between 15–25. This year’s race has two parts, first from Aarhus (Denmark) to Helsinki on 7th to 17th July and then from Riga (Latvia) to Szczecin (Poland) on 28th July to 3rd August.
I visited the TSR in Helsinki on Thursday 18th, accompanied by my wife Maria and our friend Paula who happened to be staying in Helsinki. I will freely admit that this was pretty much the first time I ever paid any attention to the Tall Ships Races. They have visited Finland several times (most recently Turku in 2003 & 2009 and Kotka in 2007), but I have always dismissed sailing ships as something boring and over-romanticized when compared more modern motorized ships. How wrong I was.
There are four classes in Tall Ships Races. Class A are the actual large sailing ships, while smaller and/or modern-rigged ships, such as the ones seen here, compete in Classes B, C, and D.
Arriving at Hietalahti where the ships were moored, we first passed a stage with an iskelmä concert underway (iskelmä is a Finnish style of popular music. There is no real equivalent in the English-speaking world, though the German schlager is somewhat similar). This was not well patronized, which is understandable as iskelmä does tend to be rubbish and the sailing ships were much more interesting.
The GÖTHEBORG was by far the most impressive participant. Accuracy of the replica goes as far as flying the flag of the Swedish East India Company instead of the modern Swedish flag.
We first headed got the GÖTHEBORG, a beautiful 2005-built replica of an 18th-century trading vessel of the Swedish East India Company. Unfortunately it turned out that on this particular day, the GÖTHEBORG was not open to the public. The different ships are allowed to decide for themselves when they are open for visitors, and the GÖTHEBORG was only open for a total of four hours during the four days it was in Helsinki. Disappointed, we pressed on.
The ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT II departing Helsinki on 20th July. The ship is named in honour of the Prussian explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859). Photo copyright © 2013 Paula Martiskainen.
Moored next to the GÖTHEBORG was the German three-master barque ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLD II, which happened to be open and we quickly toured her. Built in 2011 to replace an earlier ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLD from 1906, onboard the ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLD II looks and feels like a modern ship rather than a traditional windjammer, down to the same ”faux teak” deck covering used on modern cruise ships.
Like proper tourists, Maria and Paula try their hard at the wheel of the ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT II.
A proper sailing ship deck scene from the GEORG STAGE, with visiting Finnish sailors in the foreground.
The next ship to be open during our tour was the Danish full rigged ship GEORG STAGE. If the ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLD II had been disappointingly modern, the 1934-built GEORG STAGE was a ”proper” sailing ship inside and out. Unlike on the ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLD II, the tour here also allowed a quick look below decks (a rarity, as we were to learn), where members of the crew were (literally) hanging around, spending time in the hammocks during off-shift.
Of course, the author also had to try his hand at posing at the wheel of a stationary ship. Photo copyright © 2013 Paula Martiskainen.
Maybe its just my Nordic bias, but I think the GEORG STAGE had the most attractive crew of all ships we visited. Not to mention the best hats.
After a short break for coffee we pressed on to the CISNE BRANCO (literally ”White Swan”), a 2000-built full rigger of the Brazialian Navy. In contrast to the other ships that were open to the public only for a few hours every day, the CISNE BRANCO was open the entire day, every day. Also, while the atmosphere on the other ships tended to be a bit tight and official, this was not the case on the CISNE BRANCO, which had speakers blanting out music to entertain the visitors and crew (although somewhat disappointing this was rather genetic rock music, rather than something more native to Brazil).
The exterior of the white-hulled CISNE BRANCO definitely lives up to its name.
While no actual entry to the interiors of the CISNE BRANCO was allowed, doors were open to allow a glance of the rather fancy interior that would not be out of place on a cruise ship (though sadly very few cruise ships are as unashamedly nautical these days).
Moored across from the CISNE BRANCO was one of the more exotic ships to partake in the races, the Omani Royal Navy’s training barquentine SHABAB OMAN. The British-built ship (originally the CAPTAIN SCOTT from 1971) included many delightful arabic details and was spotlessly clean – no wonder the ship was awarded as the best presented ship and crew for the first leg of this year’s race.
A little wooden ship (“that’s a pirate ship”, a child next to me said) on the SHABAB OMAN.
WYLDE SWAN (the smaller black ship in the front) and STATSRAAD LEHMKUHL. En-route to Helsinki one of the participating ships, the Norwegian WYVERN, sank. One of the crew members of the WYLDE SWAN was lost in the rescue effort.
One ship that I had hoped to visit was the Norwegian barque STATSRAAD LEHMKUHL, which had won the first leg of the race in Class A (square-rigged ships and all ships over 40 metres/131 feet long). Unfortunately the STATSRAAD LEHMKUHL was not open to the public at the moment. This, however, was more than made up by another ship moored across from her that was open: the Mexican barque CUAUHTÉMOC.
The CUAUHTÉMOC departs Helsinki on the “parade of sails”. Photo copyright © 2013 Paula Martiskainen.
Named after the last emperor of the Aztecs, the 1982-built CUAUHTÉMOC exhibited a very similar relaxed lating atmosphere to the CISNE BRANCO, but the CUAUHTÉMOC took it even further. Latin music was was blasting from speakers, the crew were giving dance lessons to the visiting locals and even the captain was whistling and jamming along. Interestingly, the CUAUHTÉMOC is one of four sister ships, all built following plans from the 1930s for Latin American countries; her sister ships are Colombia’s GLORIA, Ecuador’s GUAYAS and Venezuela’s SIMÓN BOLÍVAR.
The crew of the CUAUHTÉMOC teaching mexican dancing to the locals.
The CUAUHTÉMOC’s figurehead was rather impressive.
Unfortunately the CUAUHTÉMOC was the last ship we had time to visit before 10PM and the closure of all ships for visitors. While leaving, I spied one ship that was familiar to me: the Finnish galeas ASTRID, which I sailed onboard on a school trip when I was ten.
The ASTRID had the honour of being the last ship I photographed on my first day visiting the Tall Ships Races.
This was not, in fact, the end of our Tall Ships Races adventure, as we did return the next day to witness fireworks held in honour of the races. We did not, however, have a chance to visit any ships on that day so I shan’t write about it further.
End of Tall Ships Race to Helsinki.
Special thanks to Maria Id, Paula Martiskainen and Martin Cox.
For more photographs by Kalle Id, please visit kships.blogspot.com.
For more information about the Tall Ships Races, please visit Sail Training International’s website at www.sailtraininginternational.org.
Kalle Id, MaritimeMatters' Helsinki correspondent, is a Finnish maritime historian, photographer and journalist, with a Master's Degree in history from the University of Helsinki. His early-age exposure to ferry travel led to a lifetime fascination with passenger ships, both the cruise ferries of his home waters and the cruise ships and ferries of further afield. Kalle maintains his own ship photography blog at kships.blogspot.com. Contrary to the popular belief, he writes under his real name.
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