The idea of an international race for sail training ships, manned by crews drawn from cadets and seamen under training, was first discussed informally in 1953. Retired London solicitor, Bernard Morgan, had a dream of a Brotherhood of the Sea, which would bring the youth of the world's seafaring people together in friendly competition.

He believed this would be a fitting way to mark what was considered to be the end of the age of sailing. The idea found particular favour with the Portuguese Ambassador in the UK, Dr Pedro Theotónio Pereira, who believed that a race could foster good relations and understanding between young people of different countries.

The more Morgan and Pereira talked about the idea, the greater the response for their idea became, tickling the imaginations of many, including in Britain Earl Mountbatten, the First Sea Lord, and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. The Sail Training Internationalexternal link Race Committee was established and plans were made for a race between Torbay in the UK and Lisbon in Portugal in July 1956.

Twenty ships participated in the race, and the British Moyana was declared the winner. On its way back to Southampton, the Moyana was wrecked in a storm, and sank to the bottom. All of the 23 officers and crew were saved, and even had the presence of mind to save the trophy.

The first race was thought to be a one-time event, but attracted so much attention in the press that the committee decided to repeat the event in 1958 and after that every other year.

The Tall Ships Races today

The race usually attracts between 70 and 100 ships, and gives young recruits the opportunity to socialise with likeminded from other countries, and to visit new ports. The Tall Ships Races is now an annual event, and is held during summertime in European waters.

The race usually includes four ports with a race between the first two, a Cruise-in-Company between port two and three and another race between the last two ports. Every host port arranges a program of social, athletic and cultural activities for the crews and visitors. On the last day, a crew march and an award ceremony takes place.