Getting ship-shape for four day festival

Getting ship-shape for four day festival

When Tall Ships sail into Sunderland this summer they will herald a four day party.

It’s set to bring 1.5m visitors to the region in a four-day festival which will be the largest free event of its kind in the UK.

The Tall Ships Races Sunderland 2018 will float into the city on Wednesday 11 July 2018, and with it will come four days of family fun and entertainment, culminating in the start of the iconic race across the North Sea.

Steering the event is Michelle Daurat, one of the country’s most respected project managers. Michelle will be the driving force behind everything that happens in Sunderland before the ships set sail for Denmark, bringing with her a wealth of previous experience.

Eight years ago, Michelle – who is also head of business and operations at Sunderland’s National Glass Centre – project managed the race when Hartlepool was chosen as the host port in 2010. That event, which later won gold at the Visit England Awards for Excellence, attracted more than a million visitors to the town and gave a £26m boost to the region’s economy.

This time, Michelle and her team of four are confident the event can be even more successful. “As the UK’s largest free family festival, we expect to welcome around 1.5million people into Sunderland over the course of the four days, and we believe we will be looking at an economic impact in excess of £35m,” she said. “This will be a huge boost not only to Sunderland, but also to the region as a whole as we welcome visitors from all over the country to see these fine vessels and sample four days of exciting entertainment.”

The festival will begin on Wednesday 11 July, when the ships will sail into the city and allow visitors on board, while the crews will take part in inter-ship sporting activities.

The festival continues across four different event zones around the city over the following three days with street theatre, a crew parade, live music and displays before the young people taking part in the race join their ships on Friday 13 July. On Saturday 14 July, the ships will parade along the coast as they set off for the first leg of the race to Esbjerg, Denmark, and even after they have disappeared into the sunset, the onshore entertainment will continue into the evening.

“It’s going to be a packed four days, and we are all working hard to get everything organised and finalised,” explained Michelle. “To the people of Sunderland and the surrounding areas, this is going to be a huge, fun event but there is a lot to be done.”

The ships will be crewed by young people aged 15 and over, and Michelle and her team are currently seeking youngsters to take part.

“Our sail trainees will be able to enjoy the experience of a lifetime by acting as crew members on some of these incredible vessels. They will spend seven nights on board, taking part in the race and then spending a few days in Esbjerg taking part in the Danish celebrations, before flying home to the UK,” she said. “It will be the experience of a lifetime, as they get the chance to be part of the team, learning the ropes, building their leadership skills and self- confidence and being part of a massive international event which they will remember their whole lives.”

But it’s not just about the youngsters. Michelle and the team are also keen to recruit some 350 volunteers from across the area to help stage the event. Not only will these volunteers enjoy the opportunity to be part of this huge festival, they will be given the chance to take part in an accredited course which will potentially help their employability after the event.

There’s certainly a huge appetite from the public at large to be involved, with a flood of applications from people wanting to take part.

“We want TheTall Ships Races Sunderland 2018 to be an event which everyone can get involved with. This could be as a young person joining one of the ships, or as a volunteer on the ground, or even as a spectator,” she said. “Everyone is working very hard to pull together an event programme which will really put Sunderland on the map, and hopefully boost trade and tourism by attracting visitors from all over the UK.

“Logistically, it’s a massive operation, bringing together a vast number of participants from across the city and further afield.

“Sunderland was once the biggest shipbuilding town in the world with a maritime heritage second to none and I think this event gives a nod to that history.

“And, of course, it is also my home town, so I am incredibly proud to be involved and I am determined to do it justice.”

For further information about The Tall Ships Races Sunderland 2018 visit

Photography: Sail Training International