Thousands gather to welcome Tall Ships

A major transport and security plan kicks into action today as thousands of people pour into Waterford for the start of the world-renowned Tall Ships festival.

Over a quarter of a million people are expected to visit the city to view the 87 vessels berthed along the quays during the four-day event for the Tall Ships’ Race 2005.

A massive civic reception will take place in City Hall today (Weds July 6) to welcome over 3,000 crew members to Waterford, as Ireland hosts the starting leg of the race for the first time.

A free Park and Ride system will be operated by Bus Eireann during the festival, with up to 100 buses being used to bring visitors to and from parking sites on the perimeter of the city to the centre.

Highlights of the festival will include over 40 bands playing on seven stages around the south-east city including musicians from Trinidad, Japan and the US.

Some of the other events will include the traditional Crews Parade, which will see all the sailors from each of the ships march through the city in formation tomorrow (Thursday July 7), and a spectacular fireworks display on Friday.

The ships will then set sail on the initial stage of the race from Ireland on July 9 when they head for Cherbourg in northern France.

The lengthy leg is just the first feat to be overcome with sailors then aiming for Newcastle before heading to Fredrikstad in Norway.

The 87 ships include the Russian vessel, Kruzenshtern, which is 113.5 metres in length, and the three Irish entrants the Dunbrody, Jeanie Johnston and Asgard II.

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