The races began in the French port of St.Malo, with the ships sailing north to Greenock in Scotland. The crews then enjoyed some stunning coastal scenery as they took a 'Cruise in Company' between Greenock and Lerwick, with events in the Western Islands and Baltasound in Unst (Britain’s most northerly port) on the way.
Over 74,000 visitors enjoyed the party in Lerwick, the largest event ever to be held in Shetland at the time. The crews and other visitors experienced Shetland's culture and renowned hospitality, including entertainments such as a torch-lit Viking Parade, dawn-till-dusk music, traditional boat races, street entertainers, guided walks, inter-ship sports, wildlife tours, the world-famous 'Spiegeltent' and a pavilion showcasing products from all the 1999 host ports.
Not only were the tall ships appreciated from the bustling quaysides of Lerwick but the rural communities also rose to the occasion providing activities in their local areas to ensure that the tall ships visit was felt in every part of Shetland. Russian sailors were even treated to a banquet on the remote island of Vaila!
The all-too-short visit culminated with a stunning parade of sail in Lerwick harbour, as the vessels head south-easterly toward the final port of Aalborg in Denmark. To this day, the sailors who visited and the people of Shetland still hold fond memories of the days the tall ships visited Lerwick in 1999. Feedback received during a local survey conducted during the event included comment such as "people are very friendly", "Shetland is beautiful" and "Shetland has a mad nightlife!"
People the length and breadth of Shetland look forward in anticipation and expectation for the next visit from the Tall Ships Races in 2011.
Images From 1999
Shetlanders have very fond memories of the last visit of The Tall Ships Races in the summer of 1999. As a reminder of the event, here are some images taken at the time by John Coutts.