A FLEET of Tall Ships will be sailing back on to the River Mersey in 2018. Liverpool has officially signed the contract which means the Biscay Tall Ships Regatta will start from Liverpool and could see up to 30 stunning vessels line the waterfront across the May bank holiday weekend (Friday 25 to Monday 28 May 2018). The prestigious event, which is organised by Sail Training International, will see two other ports take part in the race, and to date Bordeaux has been announced as the final location where the event come to a climax on Monday 18 June. The race, which is a celebration of international friendship and understanding, represents countries from all over the world and it will be the fifth time Liverpool has hosted the Tall Ships fleet after having the vessels grace the Mersey in 1984, 1992, 2008 and 2012. In 2008, around one million people are estimated to have seen the Tall Ships on the Mersey during their four days in the city, bringing in a boost to the local economy of almost £10million. Plans are now underway to develop a programme of activities around the arrival of the vessels which will be berthed at Albert Dock Liverpool and the Cruise Liner Terminal, with additional activities taking place on The Strand, the Pier Head and at the Arena and Convention Centre. A community participation project will be developed, along with plans to throw a spotlight on all things maritime with water sports activities, special tours, a crew parade, street animation, live music and a beautiful Parade of Sail involving Wirral and Sefton to mark the end of the four days. There will also be a focus on getting young people (under the age of 26) from the Merseyside area involved in the world famous race. Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, said: “The Tall Ships was one of the highlights of 2008 and so it’s fitting they make their return in a year when we celebrate a decade since our unforgettable culture title. “This is an event which can engage with the wider community and provide an experience that captures the hearts and minds of local people and those who will travel from across the globe to see this stunning sight on the Mersey. “When it comes to large scale, outdoor events, Liverpool excels, but there is always something particularly special about maritime activities. The River Mersey defines Liverpool and whenever we host an event on the waterfront, people come out in their thousands to celebrate the contribution it has made to our heritage, our present and our future. “Now the deal is officially done, the team will begin planning all the details ahead of 2018 and we look forward to working with Bordeaux and the other port city to make this the best Tall Ships Regatta to date!” Each city undergoes a vigorous selection process before being awarded the accolade of being a host location. Sail Training International look at a port’s ability to accommodate a large fleet (some of which can be more than 300ft long) and provide cultural and sporting programmes for the participating crews. Other key factors include a port’s plans to involve the local community in the event, and the support and facilities it provides to bona fide sail training vessels on a year-round basis. Liverpool’s past experience includes hosting the Tall Ships Race and the Irish Sea Tall Ships Regatta in August 2012. This, together with the city’s outstanding reputation for staging other maritime-related events such as the Three Cunard Queens visit in 2015 and the annual International Mersey River Festival, ensured it became a host city for 2018. Paul Thompson, Commercial Director at Sail Training International said, “We are confident this spectacular event will be of significant economic impact to the area – linking the International Mersey River Festival with the world renowned Bordeaux Wine Festival. “But more importantly, racing across the Bay of Biscay as a young crew member will provide a life changing opportunity for the many young people invited to take part. “To find out more about this unique opportunity visit www.sailonboard.com for details of the event will be published once the final port and dates are confirmed.” The race will be one of a series of internationally significant events which mark a decade since Liverpool was European Capital of Culture. Eighteen For 18 will shine a light on the city’s progress since 2008 and its aspirations moving forward. Plans are in motion to work with some of the world’s best artists, musicians and cultural organisations to create a programme which will be integrated into the city’s existing annual cultural offer. The aim is to attract audiences of around five million people, create £50million economic impact and push Liverpool to the top of the ‘must-visit’ cities in 2018.