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Tall Ships no tall order for Helsinki

By Tim Bird, July 2013

Photo: TSR Pelican from London, City of Helsinki
Tall Ships Races, Helsinki, Finland, Finnish, sustainability, sailing, Baltic SeaThe Pelican of London (centre) joins more than 110 sailing ships in the Tall Ships fleet in Helsinki in July.

Finland’s summer events don’t come much bigger than the Tall Ships Races, breezing into Helsinki from July 17 to 20, 2013.

A fleet of over 110 sailing vessels, ranging from the compact to the majestic, will crowd the Hietalahti and Jätkäsaari areas of the Finnish capital, having sailed north through the Baltic from Aarhus in Denmark and with Riga in Latvia as their next port of call.

The first ships will arrive a day or so before the main events begin on July 17 and the event culminates with a Parade of Sails on July 20.

Photo: TSR Helsinki 2013, Gulden Leeuw
Tall Ships Races, Helsinki, Finland, Finnish, sustainability, sailing, Baltic Sea
A busy crew member tends to the rigging on the Danish ship Gulden Leeuw.

This is the fourth visit to Helsinki of this monumental tribute to the age of sail, but it’s been 13 years since the last time. Half a million people are expected to throng the area to watch and visit the ships, to enjoy free concerts on three stages in the Hietalahti market square and to watch a unique daylight firework display and a carnival parade of the ships’ crews from countries as diverse as Brazil and Oman.

For many places, such a combination of sea power and humanity would bring on a pounding organisational headache. Helsinki, however, takes this kind of thing in its stride. Which is not to say there are no significant challenges.

“The Tall Ships Races is the biggest free open-air event of the summer,” says Saila Machere, event director in the City of Helsinki’s Event Office. “Combine all the technical and maintenance aspects, the needs of the crews, keep the area comfortable for visitors and offer some extra experiences such as concerts, restaurants and shops, keep everyone informed, not only working groups but vessels, volunteers and partners, redirecting traffic…” She pauses for breath to let the scale of the task sink in.


Photo: Tim Bird
Tall Ships Races, Helsinki, Finland, Finnish, sustainability, sailing, Baltic Sea
The Mexican navy’s Cuauhtemoc makes a dramatic entrance to Kotka during the 2007 Tall Ships Races.

Machere believes that Finns are especially well-suited to event organisation. Just the same, and for all the challenges involved, an event in Helsinki is rarely going to take on the same dimensions as one in London, for example, or Paris.

“The size of event organisation here is quite often relatively small, but it helps that we have a volunteer culture in Finland. It has often been said that Finns get to the point without any small talk. Those who have grown accustomed to it understand and even appreciate that it can mean less talk, more action.”

Finns also tend to observe schedules and regulations “Once the schedule is settled we try to keep it. Perhaps we could learn to relax little bit in this respect! But on the other hand, one major, helpful issue in organising major events is a very low level of bureaucracy.”

Sustainability is another priority for Helsinki City Events generally and specifically for the TSR. Sailing ships are by their nature environmentally friendly, and the Clean Baltic Sea campaign is also on board to raise funds to reduce the flow of phosphorus into the Baltic. “Helsinki is a compact and human-size capital,” Machere points out. “Distances from A to B are short and accessibility to the TSR event areas is easy with local transportation, on foot or by bike.”

Main events in the Tall Ships Races Helsinki 2013

Crew parade Thursday July 18, 3 pm
Daylight fireworks display Friday July 19, 9 pm
Parade of Sails Saturday July 20, 1:30–5 pm
Touring the Ships Wed–Fri July 17–19, 10 am–10 pm


See also on thisisFINLAND

Tall ships take over Turku town
Elite sailors chart course for Helsinki
Maritime culture thrives in Kotka


The Tall Ships Races Helsinki 2013
TSR Helsinki 2013 Programme

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