Tall Ships Challenge - Fleet of seven arrive in Cape Fear

The 191-foot Barquentine Dewaruci (Surbaya, Indonesia) and Nova Scotia’s Theodore Tug docked in Savannah, Ga., with the Talmadge Bridge in the background for Tall Ships America’s 2012 Tall Ships Challenge
After departing a large public maritime festival in Savannah, Ga., on Monday, May 7, seven tall ships have reached Cape Fear, N.C., completing the first leg of 2012 Tall Ships Challenge®. Three of those ships will continue on to join four others in Greenport, N.Y., which is approximately 500 nautical miles away and due to host its own maritime festival beginning on Saturday, May 26 and continuing through Memorial Day, Monday, May 28.

The festivals, coordinated by Tall Ships America with the help of local organizers, are part of a series of four to grace the Eastern Seaboard (Newport, R.I. and Halifax, Nova Scotia are next up for July), and all participating tall ships have the option of competing in corresponding port-to-port races as they sail to each venue.

'The festival in Savannah brought to our ship the vibrancy that comes with thousands of curious onlookers,' wrote Eliza Braunstein (West Hartford, Conn.), a deckhand aboard the 180-foot HMS Bounty, in her sailing log. (HMS Bounty did not compete in the race but is on its way to Greenport from Charleston, S.C.) 'We met up with old friends we hadn’t seen since last summer and introduced them to new shipmates, but as every sailor knows, when the weekend ends and the tide flows out towards the ocean it is time to set sail.'

The 2012 Tall Ships Challenge fleet in Savannah, Ga

Braunstein described her ship’s crew as diverse, ranging from ages 18 to 65 and including a former cowboy, a scuba instructor and a history major as well as 'many with years of sailing experience and a handful of novices that we’ve collected during various port stops.

'During the journey north we explored the concepts of hard work, teamwork and humor,' continued Braunstein. 'As we sail north and explore a different port every weekend, I find that the crew of the HMS Bounty has already become a family. Nowhere was this new bond more evident than when we furled the topsails in a squall as sheets of rain poured down, streaks of lightening flashed around us and thunder rumbled in the not-so-far distance. '

The crew douses sails aboard 180-foot HMS Bounty

With light winds and choppy seas for most of the way up the coast, racing to Cape Fear was tough on the competing tall ships, which each have handicap ratings based on different rigs and varied sizes. Three ships retired early while the remaining four were unable to complete the course within the allotted time limit of 48 hours. Nevertheless, first place was awarded to the 159-foot Topsail Schooner Pride of Baltimore II, which had come within 16 nautical miles of the finish line when time ran out.

Frank Bell (Wilmington, Del.), a deckhand onboard Pride of Baltimore II, is one of five other crew members that are under the age of 24 and new to the tall ship and racing.

'Before the start in Savannah the foc’sle was filled with a buzz, and the deckhands all shared the same nervous energy-- filled to the brim with anticipation of the coming race,' said Bell.

'Racing aboard this tall ship was old hat for some, and for others this was the first taste, but we are all ready for the next leg. Savannah was fantastic, and the race to Cape Fear has been an incredible experience and a chance to put into place all the lessons we’ve been learning. Greenport is just beyond the horizon and the next leg of the Tall Ship Challenge will be waiting. Pride of Baltimore II will be ready.'

On the 179-foot Barque Picton Castle 26 crewmembers, representing nine countries, displayed varying skill sets. 'Tacking can be tricky on a square rigger, because the wind comes around the front of the ship and backs the sails, which can stop you dead in the water, so you have to have the timing just right,' said trainee Kate Addison (Bristol, U.K.) who added that many of the new crew onboard quickly got the hang of this difficult maneuver.

Onboard the 179-foot Barque Picton Castle during the race to Cape Fear, N.C. in the 2012 Tall Ships Challenge
'The best part of this leg was sailing in the company of the HMS Bounty and the USCG Barque Eagle. On our long deep-water passages, like from Galapagos to Pitcairn in the South Pacific, we can go for days without seeing any other ships, certainly not big, beautiful sailing ships. It makes for a very pretty view to see square sails on the horizon, and it’s great to have the company.'

Tall Ships America’s Tall Ships Challenge® is an annual series that rotates on a three-year cycle between the Atlantic Coast, Great Lakes, and Pacific Coast.

Over the past decade, the Tall Ships Challenge has coordinated more than 60 events in 32 cities, stimulating strong tourism and economic development through associated family-friendly festivals.

In 2013, all eyes will be on the Tall Ships Challenge® Great Lakes, when the ships will visit over 20 cities in the U.S. and Canada to continue the commemoration of the events of the War of 1812, including a re-creation of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie.

For a list of participating tall ships, click here

Tall Ships America website