More than half a million people are expected to flock to Waterford for this summer's Tall Ships Race, which will set off from the port in early July.
At least 70 tall ships will be on display along the city quays -- an event which organisers estimate will generate €30m worth of business for the area.
But Irish hopes of taking part have been sunk as the Asgard training vessel, which sank two years ago in the Bay of Biscay, has not been replaced, said project manager Olivia O'Reilly.
The insurance money paid out on the capsized vessel has been swallowed up by the government, while the Jeanie Johnston is no longer seaworthy.
But some 150 young people will get to test their sailing skills by taking part on other ships, Ms O'Reilly said.
The Tall Ships Festival which runs from June 30 to July 3 will cost €3m to stage -- coming from sponsors including €600,000 from Tourism Ireland -- but organisers say the outlay is returned many times over to the area, with half of all visitors coming from outside the county.
Waterford had to compete against 23 other cities to win the right to stage the event this year, while Dublin is set to get its chance to hold the event in 2012.
The Tall Ships Race was previously held in Waterford in 2005 and was a huge success attracting 450,000 people to the city.
Organisers believe they can easily exceed this number this summer given greatly improved road and rail links.
Sharon Shannon, the Waterboys, Damien Dempsey and Waterford band O Emperor will all perform at the festival which will also feature street acts, comedy, nightly fireworks, an artisan food village and a special new illusion show from Keith Barry.