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Smooth sailing

Words by Ysy Lees | Images by Max Mudie

A look at the event that celebrates navigation with nautical history.

Falmouth was once again host to the prestigious Magellan Elcano Tall Ships Race in August this year, enticing crowds of boat enthusiasts and delighted onlookers in their thousands to marvel at the impressive ships, sails and sea vessels. The international fleet was welcomed alongside a variety of festivities and attractions during Europe’s largest, free festival before they set sail to A Coruña, Lisbon, and finally Cadiz. Bringing together people of different nationalities, religions and cultures, this event promotes international friendship and understanding, with it all beginning in Falmouth.

Falmouth is of course deeply entrenched in maritime history, its roots still flaunted in its natural harbour, the third deepest in the world, which is home to working fishing boats, modern yachts and marina berths. Built in 1860, the docks made a huge impact on the fortune of the town, allowing ships from all over the world to take advantage of its natural geographical features and its sailors a place to settle for the night. The construction of the Queen Elizabeth dry dock was completed in 1958 and meant that after blasting and moving the cliff face, it could accommodate ships of up to 100,000 tons.

These docks are just as much an integral part of the port now, taking pride in celebrating the first circumnavigation of the world by Ferdinance Magellan and Sebastián Elcano over 500 years ago. Not only does this event welcome a diverse group of seafarers and fans but it serves as a reminder of our ancestral connections to the sea and for locals, the chance to explore their home inhabited by fascinating history.

One of the ships that visited this year was the Cuauhtémoc, a Mexican vessel that first launched in 1982 and is captained today by Captain Jose Díaz Castillo. Its rig sits 44.81 metres above the waterline and it has a hull length of 77.63 metres with a total crew number of 258. Its size alone draws the eye with its intricacies becoming more evident as you approach the stunning vessel. Cuauhtémoc, with its 24-metre length, 15-strong crew, oak black hull and billowing red sails was also particularly eye-catching for onlookers. Another ship that made its way to Falmouth, and arguably one of the most impressive ships in Falmouth during the event, was the Dar Mlodziezy, the biggest of the fleet, at 2255 tonnes and with a steel, white hull measuring 94.8 metres.

These ships create unity by sharing their history and allowing us to climb on board and explore. We have the chance to experience first-hand the connection Falmouth had and continues to pursue with international fleets and crews while learning all about what makes them so special today.

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