În 1938, on the initiative of captain Arnold Schumburg, several boats gathered together in Stockholm port to set sail for the first race ever (illegal at the time). After the World War II the idea was borrowed by the British lawyer Bernard Morgan, who proposed to organize such races on a regular basis. This proposal would bring back to people’s consciousness the sailing ship, which at the time was being gradually replaced by the steamer.
The first official regatta was held under the patronage of the Prince of Edinburgh in 1956 on the Dartmouth- Torbay – Lisbon route with as many as 21 participant ships. We should also add that some of them (such as Norway’s “the Christian Radich” or Sweden’s “the Falken”) still race today.
The event was a raging success, which is why the organizers decided to be in charge of the subsequent similar events, made a name for themselves as Sail Training International.
This race became so popular, that in 1972 the organizers decided to run it also in even in number years not only in odd number ones as previously. 1972 was the first year when the participants had forgotten their competitive sense and sailed together instead, they even exchanged sailors among the ships.
It was at that time when the first contract with a sponsor was signed and the competition changed its name to “The Cutty Sark Tall Ships Races” to honour its sponsor, the famous whisky manufacturer, Cutty Sark.
The first race across the Atlantic Ocean was organized in 1964. 15 ships were registered that time to sail from Plymouth to Bermuda Island. Two more ships joined in Bermuda and thereafter all ships had their final port of call in New York.
In 1976, the Americans were celebrating 200 years from the signing of The Declaration of Independence and, on this occasion, the fleet crossed the ocean again. Such festive juxtaposition gave a boost to the subsequent race editions, as all American media celebrated the event, and made it even more popular. As many as 5 million people gathered to watch the tall ships parade along the Hudson river in New York.
In 1992, another transatlantic regatta was organized to celebrate 500 years from the discovery of America. The subsequent regatta was organized to celebrate the beginning of the third millennium and it was called “Tall Ships 2000”.
After 30 years, in 2003, the sponsorship contract between the whiskey manufacturer and the organizers of the contest ended. Since 2004 the regatta, renamed ”Tall Ships Races”, has been presented and sponsored by Antwerp. The sail training international logo has been in used ever since.
In 2006 the race celebrated 50 years from its inception. A special event was organized at the time, starting from St. Malo, France, to the North Sea, Bay of Biscay up to Torbay in Portugal with the purpose of reaching Antwerp, Belgium, thus retracing the original competition course, fifty years before, with only a small difference: that there were four times more competitors than in 1956.