Tall Ships return to help young sailors learn the ropes
THEY will shimmy up and down swaying masts, haul ropes and hoist sails as they look for a fair wind to speed them on their way.
The Tall Ships are back and more than 100 young Irish trainee sailors will join the thousands of crew members on the armada of 50 of the world's finest sailing ships in a race around Ireland to Scotland.
Up to 500,000 visitors are expected to throng the quays of Waterford city and along the Suir estuary when the international fleet from over 20 countries arrives for the Tall Ships race at the end of next month.
Organised by Sail Training International and described as one of the most spectacular events of its kind in the world, the race and coinciding festival will bring in an estimated ¿30m to the local economy.
More than 100 young Irish trainees between the ages of 16 and 25 have already "signed on" as crew members for the duration of the race -- irrespective of prior sailing experience.
And the organisers say there are still places available on a number of ships for any young Irish person looking for a taste of life at sea.
They will join an estimated 8,000 people from 30 different nations who will help crew the various ships.
The Tall Ships fleet arrives in Waterford on June 30 and following the "parade of sail" on July 3, the ships will race around Ireland's south, west and north coast before heading to Greenock in Scotland. Once they arrive most of the Irish trainees will then return home on scheduled flights.
Most interest will centre on the biggest vessels in the fleet, the class A square-rigged ships which will include Lord Nelson (UK); Astrid (Netherlands); Christian Radich (Norway); Eendracht (Netherlands); Europa (Netherlands); Mir (Russia); Pelican of London (UK); Pogoria (Poland); Royalist (UK); Sorlandet (Norway); and Wylde Swan (Netherlands).
Among those who have already signed on is UCD engineering graduate Aoife Ledwidge O'Brien (19), from Bray, Co Wicklow, who will be the bosun's mate on Lord Nelson.
Launched in 1986, the three-masted barque, which is operated by Britain's Jubilee Sailing Trust, was the first ship in the world to cater for both able-bodied and disabled sailors.
"Being a bosun's mate could find me in some hole below deck, cleaning, on deck pulling various ropes or up the masts seeing to one of Nellie's 18 sails," said Aoife.
Also joining up will be Leaving Cert student Paul Murray, from Waterford, who "learnt the ropes" on the Irish sail training vessel Asgard ll before it sank in the Bay of Biscay on September 2008.
"The race will be no leisurely cruise and you could be up all hours changing sails," said Paul.