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Royal Navy supports Tall Ships spectacle in Falmouth

A sea of flags greets visitors to Falmouth
18 August 2023
The British summer scuppered a Naval send-off for the magnificent Tall Ships due to depart Falmouth today.

But that doesn’t mean there’s been no involvement by the Senior Service in one of the most impressive spectacles in the international sailing calendar.

Training ship RFA Argus was due to serve as the ‘start ship’ for the sailing vessels as they left the Cornish port bound on the next leg of their race to A Coruña in Spain.

Weather conditions in the Channel have pushed the Tall Ships’ departure back until tomorrow… cancelling the eye-catching ‘parade of sail’ of the vessels leaving in formation… and the race start… and Argus is resuming her military duties.

In spite of the disappointment, the event has proved to be a boost to tourism – in addition to hosting Armed Forces Day earlier in the summer – with an estimated 100,000 people converging on the port/resort during the ships’ four-day stay.

Central to the success of the event has been Lieutenant Commander Trevor Brooks, the RN liaison officer in Falmouth (the port provides essential maintenance support to and facilities for Royal Navy and RFA vessels all year round) and a member of the Tall Ships’ organising committee.

“Falmouth has been planning for Tall Ships for over 18 months and I’ve been part of that team, linking up with the Royal Navy and what their presence would be during the race week,” he explained.

“Falmouth has been for over 400 years the last port of call and the first port of call for ship sailing from the UK to ports all over the world. It’s in a very important and strategic location for the Royal Navy and we utilise the facilities here for maintaining our warships and support vessels.

“We have a very close relationship with the town and proud to support the Tall Ships event in particular. This is the seventh time that the Tall Ships have come to Falmouth and every time they look to engage with the Royal Navy’s presence here.”

Stepping ashore in Falmouth after two months at sea was Royal Navy trainee navigator Sub Lieutenant James Chelton, who has been assigned to the Uruguayan Navy’s sail training ship Capitan Miranda.

He’s one of just two dozen cadets being schooled by 53 expert crew in traditional methods of seafaring. “It’s been a really great experience,” he said. “The best part of my career so far.

“It’s also an extremely useful professional opportunity. Uruguay has a very strong connection to the Royal Navy and do things very similarly to the Royal Navy, even though the ship herself is very different from anything we’ve got.

“It’s also helped with my language skills, learning to host guests, meeting VIPs – all while learning/improving my Spanish. And the Uruguayans are incredibly friendly and welcoming – their hospitality is unrivalled.”

Fellow sub lieutenant – though non-Spanish speaker so he may find the experience even more challenging – Will Parker has replaced James for the next couple of months of the exchange programme.

Around a dozen Tall Ships have converged on Falmouth for the race which will see the vessels visit Cadiz and Lisbon in addition to their first stop in A Coruña.

Wiktoria Owseak, a navigator cadet, is spending her third year on the Polish ship Dar Młodzieży and has been responsible for administration and logistics since joining the vessel in Den Helder, Netherlands.

The gleaming-white three master gives more than 100 students from Gdynia Maritime University first-hand instruction on life at sea and won the leg of this summer’s race between Hartlepool and Fredrikstad in Norway.

“It is an amazing experience, completely different from anything else I’ve done – I am looking to be a navigator on merchant ships,” said Wiktoria. “There are 150 people on board, a small community together for a month at a time, and a world away from working on land. It’s something I will take with me for the rest of my life.”

Leander Clayton is one of the crew of Danish school ship Georg Stage which prepares men and women for a life in the merchant marine – although he’s looking to join his country’s Navy.

“It’s exciting – we’re a smaller ship, so we don’t have as much sail, but because of a handicap we can arrive at our destination four days later than everyone else and still win. All the ships taking part are different in their size, their role, their outlook – some, like ours, are very business-like, others very focused on engagement with bands.”

It’s been a really great experience. The best part of my career so far.

Sub Lieutenant James Chelton

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