Great Lakes Tall Ships Challenge
Over A Million Visitors Race Adds Interest

The Great Lakes Tall Ships Challenge fleet combined racing the magnificent ships, often with youth crews, with a series of highly successful port visits which have drawn over a million visitors. The last major port visit, Muskegon, Michigan is August 9-13. The following is a series of dispatches following the fleet from Kingston, Ontario to Muskegon, Michigan. 

PORT COLBORNE, Ontario, Canada (TSNW) -- The 126-foot Grand Banks topsail schooner, Highlander Sea , won the Youth Sail Training Division in the first race of the Tall Ships Challenge® 2001 Series in the Great Lakes. Built in 1924 in Essex, Massachusetts, Highlander Sea currently sails out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. A minimum of 50% of those onboard sailing ships racing in the Youth Sail Training Division must be between the ages of 13 and 25 when the race starts.

Grand Nellie , a 60-foot staysail schooner based out of Duluth, Minnesota, and St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, placed second with an all-female crew. Kingston's St. Lawrence II took third, followed by Norfolk Rebel, and Fair Jeanne.

CLEVELAND, Ohio, USA (TSNW) -- The staysail schooner Grand Nellie took the Youth Sail Training Division title for the second leg in the Tall Ships Challenge® Race Series. Sailing across Lake Erie, the second race took the ships from Port Colborne, Ontario, to Cleveland, Ohio. After taking second place in the Kingston to Port Weller leg, the all-female crew on the Nellie pushed into the lead, even beating the sleek Pride of Baltimore II by one minute. Not having at least 50% of her crew between ages of 13 and 25, the Pride competed in the Cruising Division.

Tall Ship Concordia

St. Lawrence II took second in the Youth Sail Training Division followed closely by Playfair. We were well ahead of Playfair on Tuesday night. The next morning she was right on top of us, said Captain Bob Hodgson of the St. Lawrence II. We were neck and neck up to the very end. Both ships are 60-foot brigantines, making for a close and well-matched race.

Pathfinder placed fourth in the Youth Sail Training Division, followed by Fair Jeanne, Norfolk Rebel, and the True North of Toronto.

The ships will not race from Cleveland to Detroit, but will cruise together and anchor overnight, giving the crews a chance for vessel visits before the Detroit-Windsor Tall Ships Challenge® port festivals.

The TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Cleveland Harborfest kicked off with a parade of Sail. Tens of thousands of people lined the waterfront to watch the historic tall ships sail through the Cleveland harbor. For the first time the public was allowed on the Port of Cleveland Pier where masts and yard arms tower above even the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Rigging, and signal flags decorated the sky above the Cleveland waterfront, and happy crowds gathered on the pier below.

Eager visitors streamed through the front gates at 9:30 am Thursday and Friday, to get in line early for the deck tours on their favorite tall ship. By noon there were lines for big name ships like the US Brig Niagara, Pride of Baltimore II, and Bluenose II, but perfect weather, good food, and pier performers kept the crowds happy. "We may have had 200,000 here just today, and it isnt even the weekend yet," said one official from the US Coast Guard.

Visitors wishing for a glimpse of the maritime festival from the water may buy tickets for day sails on either the Grand Nellie, or the Red Witch. The Grand Nellie placed second in the first race leg across Lake Ontario from Kingston, Ontario to Port Colborne, Ontario. She then took first place in the second race across Lake Eyre from Port Colborne to Cleveland.

DETROIT, Michigan, USA (TSNW) Half of the Tall Ships Challenge® fleet have been anchored off Pelee and Middle Bass Islands for the past two nights. This cruising leg of the series takes the Challenge from Cleveland, Ohio, to Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario. Halfway through the 2001 Tall Ships Challenge Great Lakes Race Series, the group rendezvous will give the crews a chance to relax and enjoy the lakes and great weather before heading into the next port.

Several ships arrived early in Detroit and Windsor, stirring the public interest, as the cities get ready for their tri-centennial celebrations. Twenty-four tall ships are scheduled to appear for Detroit's and Windsors combined event. They will line both sides of the Detroit River with more masts, rigging, and maritime heritage than has been seen in over 100 years. Nine tall ships will dock on the Windsor side alongside Dieppe Park, and 15 along Detroits waterfront, stretching from Hart Plaza to Cobo Arena.

Detroit-Windsor should expect a strong turnout for the event -- particularly in view of the successful, preceding port festivals held in Kingston, Port Colborne, and Cleveland. In Port Colborne, it was reported that the Tall Ships Challenge festival was one of the largest events the town has ever staged. Likewise, Cleveland opened up the port of Cleveland docks to the public for the first time, showing the city an entirely new role for the waterfront harbor in front of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Great Lakes Science Center.

The Cleveland festivalgoers commented on the intensive media coverage the event generated, which accounted for the enormity of the crowds. Officials estimated that the tall ships drew almost one million people to the waterfront and downtown areas.They came to see the decorated harbor and the parade of sail, and in so doing contributed to the general energy of the overall downtown area.

Terri Bell, an IMG vice-president and the Cleveland event coordinator, was amazed by the overall impact the ships had on the community, Late Wednesday night after the parade of sail, there were still people milling around downtown. The city is normally quiet on any given week night.

DETROIT, Michigan, USA (TSNW) -- Even while the rain poured down on Hart Plaza yesterday in the middle of Detroit 300s birthday bash, happy crowds still poured towards the new waterfront promenade to see the tall ships and await the evening's entertainment. Detroits own television star and stand-up comedian, Tim Allen, performed on the main stage in Hart Plaza, followed by the legendary Stevie Wonder. The crowds persisted even during the downpour on both the Detroit and Windsor side of the River. The rain never really affected turnout for the event. According to John Jamian, Director of the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority, by this evening over three million people will have visited the tall ships.

THUNDER BAY. The Thunder Bay Tall Ship Festival offers a unique opportunity to see two of the unique tall ships side by side, since the Pride of Baltimore II makes only periodic trips to the Great Lakes. Recently designated an official "Chesapeake Bay gateway site" by the National Park Service, Pride II is one of the nation's premiere tall ships. Both vessels are participating in the Tall Ships Challenge® 2001 orchestrated by the American Sail Training Association. Though not an official part of the ASTA event, the ships' visit to Alpena is the last Great Lakes port of call for the summer.

Captain James Lowrie, Master and Commander of Tecumseth , observed, "Through the Thunder Bay Tall Ship Festival, our mission of depicting life in the Royal Navy, during the period of the War of 1812, is brought to the people of Alpena in a very realistic and meaningful way. I suspect the original Tecumseth was well familiar with the waters of Thunder Bay."

Jerome Bird, Director of Education and Public Relations for Pride of Baltimore, Inc., notes, "Pride II has participated in tall-ship festivals around the world. But it's always a special pleasure to bring the excitement of tall ships to new locations, such as Alpena, to help citizens recapture their maritime heritage. Were particularly pleased to stand mast to mast with HMS Tecumseth since we are two of the very few vessels representing the War of 1812 period. It will be a wonderful opportunity to compare histories and traditions from our different, but similar, perspectives."

"The tall ships will provide our citizens and visitors the sense of stepping back in time in Alpena. Just over 100 years ago, tall ships were a common sight in the port of Alpena," said Alpena Mayor Phil Ludlow. "I encourage all to visit and welcome the tall ships. This provides Alpena another opportunity to show we are truly a 'Warm and Friendly Port.'"

Still To Come

GREEN BAY, Wisconsin, USA (TSNW) No, this is not about a new football team challenging the Green Bay Packers!

Tall Ship Niagara

Between August 3rd and 6th, Green Bay will become a Tall Ships Challenge® host port. Once docked, the Concordia, Highlander Sea, and True North of Toronto , current participants in sail-training activities and races being held on the Great Lakes, will provide interpretive ship tours. Their international crewmembers will serve as tour guides while in port. In addition, the Grand Nellie will provide day and sunset sail trips on the Bay.
Muskegon, Michigan, USA (TSNW) -- The American Tall Ships Training Association's Tall Ships Challenge is attracting huge crowds. The Tall Ships visit is from August 9 - 13. Muskegon event organizers are now in the process of finalizing a comprehensive plan to assure that the community will be able to handle all the people expected to attend. 

According to Joanne Hatch, Muskegon County's director of tourism development and the local organizers' lead staff person, the Muskegon event is expect to attract 150,000 people over three days at Heritage Landing. If trends hold true based on what other communities have predicted and actual attendance at the events, this number could actually swell to more than 200,000. 

Hatch indicates that the Heritage Landing site should be able to handle even larger crowds if necessary. "We have a really well-developed plan for how we will handle the crowds on the site," Hatch said.

Festival organizers expect the crowd to turn over three times a day during the three days of public tours. This will place between 15,000 and 18,000 people on Heritage Landing at any given time. The site has a long history of handling this capacity of crowd with events like the ten-day music festival Summer Celebration.

The biggest crowds of all may come to see the final day of the ships' visit to Muskegon when all the vessels will leave the Muskegon harbor in a massive gala of sail. "I bet 200,000" people will try to crowd the Muskegon and North Muskegon harbor areas in order to watch the floating parade of sail, Hatch predicted.

There is no doubt that the entire event will be heavily attended and officials are working hard to ensure an enjoyable situation for all.

ALPENA, Michigan, USA (TSNW) -- Two of the countrys most prominent early 19th century, wooden schooner replicas will participate in the first-ever Thunder Bay Tall Ship Festival on August 18 and 19, 2001. Sponsored by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and the City of Alpena, the festival is designed to celebrate the rich maritime history of the area, which includes the recently designated Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve (TBNMSUP).

This historic occasion brings to Alpena two vessels that represent both sides of the War of 1812. The Great Lakes based H.M.S. Tecumseth is a replica of the war schooner which served with the Royal Naval Establishment and was used for transport from the Royal Navy base at what is now known as Discovery Harbor. The Pride of Baltimore II is a reproduction of a Baltimore clipper "privateer" -- a type of vessel which helped continue America's freedom during the War of 1812.

The vessels are representative of maritime history captured in the numerous shipwrecks in Lake Huron, where unpredictable weather, murky fog banks and sudden gales coupled with rocky shoals helped Thunder Bay earn the unfortunate name of "Shipwreck Alley." Preservation, protection and interpretation of this maritime history is the goal of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve, the newest in the nation's network of 13 special protected waters. The 448-square mile sanctuary and underwater preserve protects an estimated 116 historically significant shipwrecks ranging from nineteenth century wooden side-wheelers to twentieth century steel-hulled steamers.

Go aboard some very special sailing ships: Highlander Sea, Pride of Baltimore II, Larinda, Cape Rose, and the Norfolk Rebel. All five are two-masted schooners participating in the special tall-ships tour of the Great Lakes this summer. More, each one is very special and different from the others.

On Thursday, August 30, the celebration kicks off with a Grand Parade of Sail as the ships arrive from Lake Huron and go to moorings at Port Huron's Seaway Terminal. Beginning the next day, these remarkable vessels will be open for public tours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day through Monday. Those of the public admitted before 5 p.m. can stay until 6 p.m. Special arrangements can be made in advance for group tours for scouts, churches or schools.

The Larinda is bedecked with hand-carved gnomes, frogs, dolphins and sea horses from stem to stern. A junk-rigged modified replica of a 1767 Boston schooner, she always attracts huge crowds of visitors with her restored 1928-vintage, seven-ton Wolverine diesel engine which sits in powerful grandeur in the middle of Larinda's main salon, and the 300-pound brass cannons which lend her an air of period excitement.

Ambassador for Secunda Marine Services, the Highlander Sea (154 feet) is a big, fast, beautiful wooden schooner used for sail training, providing marine-career awareness through a variety of programs for high school- and college-age students, often leading to jobs with Secunda at its offshore oil fields.

The Cape Rose , a 72-foot ship designed for good windward performance -- unlike most gaff-rigged schooners -- once covered 1,200 miles in six days! Now she offers "Sail into Wellness" programs for anyone with a willingness to learn underway.

The famous Pride of Baltimore II travels the world's oceans on goodwill tours promoting the State of Maryland and states business community. At 170 feet from stem to stern, she's the largest of these special visitors and a representative of that pinnacle of naval architecture, the Baltimore Clipper.

Dont miss the one-of-a-kind Tugantine® Norfolk Rebel, a "sail-assisted" hybrid workboat. Her energy-efficient design conserves a substantial amount of fuel by using clean, renewable wind power: You will not find another sailing tugboat anywhere! She often serves as a safety boat for the tall-ship fleet.

Those wishing to join tall ships for the remainder of their time on the Great Lakes can send an email to . Be sure to provide your name, postal and email addresses, whether you would prefer to be a passenger, sail trainee or crewmember, and the particular time period during which you'd like to sail. In turn, your information will be forwarded to the captains involved. Many of these ships also have opportunities for individuals to return with them to their homeports in the Caribbean, the Canada Provinces and East Coast via the New York Barge Canal, St. Lawrence Seaway, the Atlantic, and the Mississippi River.

Contact Info:
American Sail Training Association, P.O. Box 1459 / 559 Thames Street, Newport, RI, 02840 USA
Email Address:; ASTA Email Address:; Telephone: +1-401-846-1775.