Jump to accessibility statement Skip to content

Tall Ships in Sunderland 2018: Everything you need to know

Home / More / News / Tall Ships in Sunderland 2018: Everything you need to know

Published on 11 July 2018

The Tall Ships are coming to Sunderland
The Tall Ships are coming to Sunderland

The Tall Ships have arrived in Sunderland for a sailing extravaganza.

 The city has been handpicked as the start port for the 2018 Tall Ships Races.

 University of Sunderland’s St Peter’s Campus is a key viewing point for many visitors.

 Here is everything you need to know about this year’s event.

 The Tall Ships Sunderland 2018:


When is the event happening?

The ships will be in Sunderland between Wednesday, 11 July and Saturday, 14 July.


What’s happening?

It is estimated around 80 ships will arrive in the city by 11 July, the entrance promises to be a feast for the eyes for spectators.

 The following day, on 12 July, the crews will parade from the Port of Sunderland, along the Wear, as a thank you to their host city.

 The ships will close to the public on Friday, 13 July as they make the final preparations for the next leg of their voyage.

 There will be entertainment and fireworks each day, plus a spectacular performance by Cirque Bijou on the Friday evening.  


What is going on each day?

Wednesday 11 July
All of the ships will have arrived by lunchtime - some will arrive as early as Monday 9 July - viewing will be spectacular from the seafront and around the quaysides of the River Wear.

  • 10am - 10pm - Event Zones at Port of Sunderland, Town Moor and St Peter's Riverside will be open with a full programme of entertainment
  • 6pm - 7pm - A Welcome Parade will take place, starting in the East End and through the Port of Sunderland
  • 9.30pm -  Short firework display


Thursday 12 July
The programme of culture and entertainment for visitors continues. The ships' crews will enjoy a morning of sport and culture before the vibrant Crew Parade travels through the city centre from Burdon Road, along Fawcett Street, crossing Wearmouth Bridge and making its way down towards Event Zone C, University of Sunderland St Peter's Campus. The Parade will bring a true international carnival atmosphere to the streets!

  • 10am - 10pm - Event Zones at Port of Sunderland, Town Moor and St Peter's Riverside will be open with a full programme of entertainment
  • 3pm - 4.30pm - Crew Parade and Prize-giving Ceremony
  • 9.30pm - Short fireworks display


Friday 13 July
The festivities will continue and a full programme of entertainment means there is something for everyone to enjoy. Official race business will start for Captains, crew and trainees before their journey to Esbjerg.

  • 10am - 10pm - Event Zones at Port of Sunderland, Town Moor and St Peter's Riverside will be open with a full programme of entertainment
  • 9pm - 10pm - A high wire artist will perform along the riverside and Wearmouth Bridge including pyrotechnics!


Saturday 14 July
The ships will close for public access as they make final preparations for the Races. They will undock through the afternoon and move out into the North Sea for the stunning Parade of Sail. The Ships will sail northwards to Souter Point and then turn around to start the race to their next destination - Esbjerg. The coastal resorts of Roker and Seaburn will provide fabulous viewing points as the city bids a fond farewell to the ships!

  • 10am - 8pm - All Event Zones will be open with a full programme of entertainment
  • 12pm - 8pm - Summer Streets Festival at Recreational Park, Seaburn
  • 2.30pm - First vessels leave their berth

5.30pm - 7pm - Parade of Sail, best viewing from St Peter's and the Roker coast


So, who’s going to be racing?

 The event involves ships and crews from around the world, all taking part in the race.

It’s open to “any mono-hull sailing vessel of more than 9.14m water line length, provided that at least 50 percent of the crew is aged between 15 and 25 years old and that the vessel meets strict safety equipment requirements”.

The race organisers pride themselves on being inclusive too, with crews being open to people of all abilities.


Where can I park and what public transport is available?

Four Park and Ride sites will have capacity for over 3000 cars, and there will be dedicated coach parking at the Stadium of Light, and Blue Badge parking at St Peter’s Riverside.

In addition, fully accessible shuttle buses will run at frequent intervals between the event zones on the north and south of the River Wear so that people can experience everything the event has to offer.

Park and Ride tickets pre-booked online costs £10 per car per day and will cover the driver and four passengers to travel on the Park and Ride buses.

These tickets will also allow the holders to access the event shuttle buses throughout the day of validity. Additional Park and Ride passengers are charged at £4 each and under-fives travel for free.

If bought on the day, the Park and Ride ticket cost is £4 per passenger.

Blue Badge parking is also available to buy online with tickets for each available at just £10 per day – a 50 per cent saving on the ‘on the day’ price of £20.

To pre-book parking and for further information visit here
The Park and Ride car parks are;

Fulwell Quarry - Post code: SR5 1JT - Drop off at Event Zone C (St Peter’s Riverside) Tuesday - Friday and Event Zone D (Seafront) on Saturday.

Downhill - Post code: SR5 4BB - Drop off at Event Zone B (Town Moor ) Wednesday - Friday and Event Zone D (Seafront) on Saturday.

Herrington Country Park -Post code: : DH4 7EL - Drop off at Event Zone B (Town Moor ) Wednesday - Friday and Event Zone C (St Peter’s Way) on Saturday.

Seaburn Camp - Post code: SR6 8AA - Drop off at Event Zone C ( St Peter’s Riverside) Wednesday - Friday and Event Zone D (Seafront) on Saturday.


If I'm coming by Metro, which station should I get off at?

To get a great view of the ships from the University of Sunderland site, get off at St Peter's Metro Station and enjoy the walk down to the UoS's St Peter's Campus


How else will the Metro be affected?

The busiest stations will be Sunderland and St Peter’s during the week, as well as Seaburn on Saturday.

Stadium of Light and Park Lane will also be very busy. We expect there to be queues in these stations on the evening as people leave events. Trains will be very full throughout Sunderland as well as in Newcastle city centre stations during theevent.


So will Metro put on extra services to cope with demand?

Yes. They will be running additional trains to and from Sunderland to cope with the extra passengers.


What advice is Nexus giving about public transport?

They are advising visitors of the best time to travel and to avoid Metro between 4pm-6pm when they know trains will already be busy with commuters. 


Will there be later Metro services after the events?

No – trains won’t be running later than normal, as events are scheduled to finish in good time for visitors to get home on the regular services


Can I go sailing on a Tall Ship?

Yes, to see how you can get onboard and have the experience of a life time visit here


What will be happening at St Peter's Campus?

We will have not only amazing viewing spots for the Tall Ships, but also different entertainment every day.

Even before the event kicks off we will have primary school children, giving performances on specially erected stages at St Peter’s Campus, on Tuesday, July 10.

At the St Peter’s Campus stage, each day, Sunderland University performing arts students will perform a specially devised show about local heroes, Mackems through Time.

On Thursday, July 12, highlights will include a performance at St Peter’s Campus at 1pm by the Open Orchestra, an organisation which enables disabled children to make music using especially adapted instruments and electronics, and LGBT choir, Northern Proud Voices, whose set will begin at 8.45pm.

Big bands will take centre stage at St Peter’s Campus on Friday, July 13, with Sunderland University Big Band at 5.45pm, and the Customs House Big Band at 8pm

Will St Peter's still be open to staff and students?

No, Sir Tom Cowie Campus will be closed to students and staff from Saturday 7 to Sunday 15 July 2018 to allow everyone to enjoy the fun


What road closures will there be?

On Thursday, July 12, a Crew Parade of sailors and young people from around the world will start at Burdon Road and make its way to St Peter’s Campus, resulting in the closures of Burdon Road and Park Road for the afternoon. These closures will be rolled out along the parade route up to the Wearmouth Bridge from 2.30pm, taking in Fawcett Street, Bridge Street, Borough Road and streets connected to the route.

Roads will re-open as the parade passes. Wearmouth Bridge, St Mary’s and West Wear Street will be closed between 3pm and 4.30pm with roads re-opening after the crew parade arrives at St Peter’s Campus.

On the final day of the event, Saturday, July 14,, the A183 Roker Terrace/Whitburn Road will be closed from early morning until late at night between the Bungalow Café and Morrisons roundabout. Throughout the event the streets closest to the event zones will be subject to permit closures, to allow access for residents and businesses. Visitors should use the variety of event parking options available.


Will there be other things to do and see in Sunderland during the event?

An exciting programme of entertainment and cultural activities will take place across the vast event site for four days, with something for everyone to enjoy, food and refreshments will hold an international theme.  

 The ships will open to allow free public access during set periods, welcoming visitors aboard on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the event.

 Each day will offer something different, keeping the crowds entertained.


Will there be any VIPs visiting?

Yes, HRH Princess Anne will be heading to the National Glass Centre for the first day of the event. She will spend time talking with those taking part in the event.


Is the Summer Streets Festival still happening when Tall Ships are on?

Yes, it is. The free annual festival founded five years ago by The Futureheads guitarist and vocalist Ross Millard – is moving from its usual Southwick home to Seaburn Recreation Park to be part of the event.

 On Saturday 14 July, stars such as Little Comets and the world famous Royal Northern Sinfonia will be among a packed line up performing across three stages.

 The Sinfonia’s chamber orchestra – which was a highlight of the 2015 Summer Streets festival - will be followed by Jarrow-based indie band Little Comets, currently touring their fourth album Worhead.

 Also taking to the main stage will be up and coming North East band The Pale White along with festival favourites Smoove & Turrell.

Summer Streets Festival will take place from 12 noon to 8.30pm on Saturday 14 July at Seaburn recreation park, Sunderland and entry is free.


I'm hungry, what will I be able to eat?

Caterers from across the North East and beyond have signed up to take stalls and pop-ups at the event, so the anticipated 1.5m visitors can enjoy everything from cakes and coffee to buffalo burgers, noodles, ice cream and waffles.

 Four event zones will play host to food retailers of all types and sizes, selling cuisine as varied as Thai, Bangladeshi street food and German bratwurst.

 At the Port of Sunderland, catering highlights include French tartiflettes, snow cones from Blyth-based Antoninos, gin and craft ales from Stockton-based Gin Without Borders – and the traditional British seaside staple, fish and chips.

 Lebanese food, macaroni, noodles, and ice cream and doughnuts are among the treats in store for visitors to the Town Moor and East End and, at St Peter’s, French and Greek cuisines are the order of the day.

 While at the seafront and Summer Streets Festival, visitors can tuck into everything from burgers and sausages to chicken, chips and ice cream.


Will there be fireworks

Oh, yes. There are short fireworks displays at 9.30pm on Wednesday 11 and Thursday 12 July, from the East side of the Port. St Peter's will be a great viewing spot.

Pyrotechnics will also be part of the artistic performance by Cirque Bijou, taking place at 9.30pm on Friday 13 July. This high-wire walk will take place over the river and up to the Wearmouth Bridge. 



Have the tall ships been to the North East before?

Yes, the first North East location to host the annual treat - then called the Cutty Sark Tall Ships Race - was Newcastle back in 1986 when ships in full sail proved such a memorable sight on the Tyne.

This was repeated when tall ships returned to the quayside in 1993 and then again in 2005.

Most recently, Blyth played host to The Tall Ships Regatta - a smaller-scale event with a pared-down fleet which nonetheless meant a huge cash injection into the local economy in 2016.

This time, Sunderland’s economy is expected to enjoy benefits of up to £28m from the event.


Are University of Sunderland students going to be on the ships?

Seven students the opportunity to take part in a five day voyage before the Tall Ships officially dock in Sunderland. Sailing on the specially commissioned vessel, Black Diamond, they will be involved in all aspects of the ship management; from hoisting the mast, steering the vessel to keeping it ship shape for its arrival in to Sunderland. Once back in Sunderland, they will be taking part in the city’s Tall Ships fun, including being centre stage for the crew parade and parties.


Will Roker Pier be open so I can see the ships coming in or going out?

Yes, Roker Pier has been reopened ahead of the races, having been closed for a programme of extensive restoration in 2012. Visitors will be able to enjoy tours of the tunnel and lighthouse after restoration of the lighthouse interior, tunnel floors and drains, and improvements to accessibility. The pier will now be a key viewing point for the Tall Ships Races, which will draw to a close on Saturday.


Are there any talks on the Tall Ships I can attend?

Yes, the following talks will be happening over the summer in the Sir Tom Cowie Lecture Theatre, Prospect Building.

Wednesday 23 May 2018, 2.30pm

Whaling from the Port of Sunderland 1780-1820, Tony Barrow


Wednesday 6 June 2018, 2.30pm

Whatever happened to our shipbuilding industry? Paul Stott


Wednesday 27 June 2018, 2.30pm

Shipwrecks and Life Saving, Kathleen Gill


Wednesday 18 July 2018, 2.30pm

Life and Death at Sea in the 19th Century, George Patterson


Wednesday 8 August 2018, 2.30pm

What can Nelson tell us about climate change? Dennis Wheeler


 Wednesday 22 August 2018, 2.30pm

“A ship of brilliant qualities”, Jack Curtis


Where can I find out more about walks along the riverside and history and heritage of Sunderland while the ships are here?

The University of Sunderland’s Seagull City project was designed around walks in the city centre and along the river. It is also jam-packed with history about the city and ideal for researching walks and local heritage. Find out more visit here


Will any local charities benefit from the Tall Ships being here?

The Tall Ships Races Sunderland 2018 has opted to support Sunderland Maritime Heritageand Sunderland RNLI. 

Event organisers hope their backing will shine a spotlight on the work of the two charities in the run up to - and during - the four-day festival.