NEWPORT, R.I. – Though the 2013 TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® series of races and public maritime festivals officially wrapped up last month, the Great Lakes are still filled with the spirit of maritime adventure that arrived in June with a fleet of tall ships from North America and Europe. Tall Ships America, a non-profit organization dedicated to education under sail, coordinated the festivities with the help of local host ports throughout the Great Lakes region of the US and Canada. Commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812, the events culminated in a historic re-enactment of the Battle of Lake Erie, replete with the muzzle flashes, smoke and resounding blasts of replica cannon fire.
“It was a sight to be seen, with thousands of spectators on the water,” said Captain David Leanza (Cleveland, Ohio) whose 85-foot topsail schooner and Tall Ships America memberAppledore IV played the role of the original combatant USS Scorpion. “This was the first on-the-water battle re-enactment ever carried out during a TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® series, so in order to make it as historically accurate as possible, each of 15 vessels played a ship that was at the original battle, and we were all given detailed instructions and different coordinates to follow.”
During the re-enactment, Appledore IV was at capacity with 48 passengers onboard. Typically, the ship sails with a 15-person crew, including nine trainees that are part of its sail training program, which Leanza has been running for nine years.
“Sail training is a great way for youth to forge their identities outside of home and school,” said Leanza, adding that the Appledore IV crew participated not only in this year’s festivals but also in two of the series’ five offshore races, which took place between ports, with one scheduled for each of the Great Lakes. The 157-foot topsail schooner Pride of Baltimore IIwon race one, three, four and five, and the 122-foot topsail schooner Lynx took home first place in race two.
Tall Ships America intern Elizabeth Braunstein (West Hartford, Conn.) split her summer between three tall ships on the Great Lakes and competed in all of the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® races. “I sailed dinghies in college and had a lot of experience on the water, but I learned so many new things when I raced tall ships this summer,” said the 25-year-old. “It’s amazing to see the crew hauling these massive lines and trimming these enormous sails and how calculated adjustments can determine the outcome of a race.”
Braunstein added that during the course of the summer, Tall Ships America encouraged the public to not only view the tall ships dockside during the festivals but also sign up to sail aboard them.
“It is a life changing experience. I think most people who have ever participated as a trainee will agree when I say that tall ships are a great platform for character building, they encourage leadership, teamwork, dedication and determination,” said Braunstein. “The trainees that come onboard are of all ages, and most have never sailed a tall ship before. They come into the program thinking that they will have a great experience, but they come out of it with so much more than they ever thought possible.
“I know one 15-year-old student who came on to Sørlandet for a week this summer and loved it so much that she decided to join the ship’s high school education program, and she is now halfway across the world.”
Tall Ships America’s TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® annual series rotates on a three-year cycle between the Atlantic Coast, Great Lakes and the Pacific Coast. Over the past decade, Tall Ships America has coordinated more than 82 TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® events in 49 cities, attracting more than 22 million visitors and stimulating in excess of $1.5 billion in aggregate economic and tourism activity for the host ports. In 2014 the series will take place on the Pacific Coast, visiting Oxnard, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Dana Point, California.
Founded in 1973, Tall Ships America serves as the hub for tall ships activity, expertise, and information in North America, and is commended by Congress as the Sail Training organization representing the United States in the international forum. In addition to organizing the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® series, Tall Ships America supports the people, ships and programs of sail training through grants, scholarships, conferences, education, publications, public events and advocacy.