The first tall ships festival to come to Portland in 15 years is expected to draw 25,000 people to the city’s waterfront over three days this summer.

The Coast Guard barque Eagle is among eight tall ships set to parade through Portland Harbor on July 18 and dock on the waterfront, according to an announcement Tuesday night by Sailing Ships Portland, the local event organizer.

“This is an opportunity most people never have, to see these beautiful vessels up close, to go aboard and meet the crew, and to step right into our living maritime history,” said Alex Agnew, president of Sailing Ships Portland, a Portland-based nonprofit.

Tours of the Eagle will be free, and a single charge of $15 will cover tours of all the other tall ships. Some of the ticket proceeds will go toward youth sail training and education, and the rest to the city, the ships’ crews and to Sailing Ships Portland’s partner, Tall Ships America.

Planning for the event – the first tall ships festival in Portland since OpSail Maine 2000 – began well over a year ago, Agnew said.

The Portland event will feature four of the 40 Class A tall ships currently operating, he said. Class A vessels are longer than 40 meters, or 131 feet. In addition to the 295-foot Eagle, also coming to Portland are the Oliver Hazard Perry, a 210-foot square-rigger out of Newport, Rhode Island; the 179-foot Picton Castle, a three-masted barque based in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia; and the 180-foot El Galeon out of Seville, Spain.


Other, smaller taller ships will be in port for the weekend, Agnew said, but the lineup is still being finalized. It could include the Bowdoin, a 100-foot schooner out of Castine that is owned by Maine Maritime Academy.

Agnew said Portland will be the final stop on the 2015 Tall Ships Challenge, a series of races in which tall ships crewed by young people are pitted against each other in a friendly competition.

The challenge, which begins June 13 in Cape Charles, Virginia, will make port in Philadelphia, Camden, New Jersey, and Greenport, New York, before ending in Portland.

The Tall Ships Challenge is being sponsored by Tall Ships America, a nonprofit based in Newport, Rhode Island. Tall Ships America’s mission is to promote sailing to the North American public and to preserve maritime heritage through education.

Bert Rogers, executive director of Tall Ships America, said port cities that host the challenge typically experience significant economic impacts. Tall Ships America will provide staff to help run the Portland event.

“Since ships tend to visit in the summertime, visitors tend to travel from as far away as four hours, and stay a few extra days,” Rogers said in a written statement. “Portland has the perfect waterfront for visitors to tour ships and enjoy rich Maine maritime heritage.”


The City Council approved an order authorizing the festival – it will be called the “Iberdrola USA Tall Ships Portland Festival 2015” – at a council meeting in February, said city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin. Iberdrola, which owns Central Maine Power Co., is the festival’s chief sponsor.

Other corporate sponsors include WCSH-TV, the Portland Press Herald and the Portland branch of Morgan Stanley.

City councilors also issued a permit that will allow festival participants to use the Maine State Pier, the parking and roadway area of the Casco Bay Ferry Terminal, the Maine Wharf, and the piers at Ocean Gateway Terminal and Moon Tide Park.

“The city of Portland is pleased to welcome a spectacular international fleet from the Atlantic coast and beyond. Tall ships showcase our history, our hospitality and our working waterfront,” Mayor Michael Brennan said in a written statement.

Organizers expect to sell about 25,000 tickets, which go on sale Friday. The festival will begin around 1 p.m. Saturday, July 18, with a parade of sail through Portland Harbor, Agnew said. Tours of all ships will run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday. The festival also will include live music and food.

Tickets can be purchased online at For more information, contact Tall Ships Portland 2015 at [email protected] or call 619-1842.

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