15/01/2004

Belfast bids to attract 'Tall Ships' in 2008

Northern Ireland’s sail training organization has backed a campaign to have the world-famous Tall Ships Race return to Belfast in 2008.

The Ocean Youth Trust’s ‘Lord Rank’ which will sail into Abercorn Basin tomorrow afternoon (Friday January 16) to ‘hoist the mainsail’ in support of Belfast City Council’s bid to bring the world’s finest sailing ships back to the City for the first time since their highly successful visit in 1991.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Martin Morgan, will be piped aboard the 21-metre sail training vessel to meet Captain Eamon Masterson and his crew – currently made up of young people from all over the City of Belfast.

Earlier this week, representatives from Belfast City Council, the Ocean Youth Trust and the Belfast Harbour Commissioners met senior officials from the Sail Training Association, which organizes the Tall Ships Race, to press the case for the event’s return to Belfast in four years’ time.

Looking forward to the visit of the ‘Lord Rank’ to Belfast tomorrow, the Lord Mayor said: “There is no doubt that the visit of the Tall Ships to Belfast in 1991 is one of the most spectacular and successful events which this City has ever staged. Belfast has a long and proud maritime heritage, and it is only right that we seek to bring this magnificent event back here in 2008."

Skipper, Eamon Masterson, said that he and is crew were looking forward to docking in Belfast – especially as it was ‘home port’ for most of them: ”We are delighted at the keen interest and support that Belfast is showing in Ocean Youth Trust and the Lord Rank in the bid for a visit from the Tall Ships race in 2008. Sail training is an excellent way of bringing young people together and showing how little divides them when faced with the challenge of the sea.”

In September 2002, Belfast welcomed the Irish sail training vessel, ‘Asgard II’, and last year Belfast City Council sponsored places for young people from the City to enjoy the experience of a lifetime on board the ‘Jeanie Johnston’.

An exact replica of the famine ship of the same name, the three-masted barque visited Belfast in January 2003 prior to its maiden trans-Atlantic voyage.

(SP)

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