Belfast Telegraph

Crowds wave off Tall Ships fleet

The last of the Tall Ships have left Belfast.

Around 50 vessels from 15 different countries set off for the start of the sailing training race to Norway and Denmark.

A Red Arrows flypast and thousands of spectators heralded the departure of the majestic wooden-masted vessels.

James Pearson, 34, from Belfast said he travelled regularly to see the Tall Ships.

"There is something romantic about them, they really are a symbol of a bygone era."

Ships from Ecuador, Portugal, Spain, France, Norway, Sweden and Denmark are competing in the race, which begins on Monday at 10 am off the coast of Portrush.

The grand boats gathered to "parade" down Belfast Lough where the shores were lined with spectators, amateur photographers, families, young and old.

Sails were unfurled gradually, some several miles out of port before the first white canvas was unfurled.

Janice Devine, 46, said: "I think it is a tremendous endorsement of Northern Ireland, when you think how many options they had of where to start, they started here.

"We need to have more events like this, it created a real buzz about the place.

"It is just a pity we have to say goodbye to the boats."

Among the last to leave was the giant Brazilian naval vessel the Cisne Branco, its crew waving goodbye to well-wishers as it nosed its way carefully out into the River Lagan.

The name means the White Swan and the ship was busy all weekend with guided tours while crew scaled the masts checking the rigging. A fireworks display on Saturday night illuminated vessels moored alongside the Odyssey.

And crew members clad in suitable mariner's attire paraded through the city centre as part of the pageantry.

The PSNI said up to 300,000 people were expected along the Antrim and north Down shorelines to catch a final view of the boats.

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