Tall Ships: Fond farewell as council claims 500,000 visitors

The Tall Ship ''Morgenster passes down Belfast Lough as the four-day festival came to an end on Sunday
The Tall Ship ''Morgenster passes down Belfast Lough as the four-day festival came to an end on Sunday

At least 500,000 visitors came to marvel at the spectacle of the Tall Ships in Belfast during the four-day maritime festival.

And it is estimated more than 300,000 people on Sunday waved farewell to the last of the Tall Ships as they sailed away from Belfast.

People watch the Tall Ships leaving Belfast harbour from the shore close to Belfast City Airport

People watch the Tall Ships leaving Belfast harbour from the shore close to Belfast City Airport

A spokesman for Belfast City Council said they were “delighted” with how the event had gone.

“We reached the figures we had anticipated of 500,000,” he said.

“It has been overwhelmingly positive with a great atmosphere on the site and great feedback from the visitors and the visiting crews.”

During the largest event ever to be held in Northern Ireland spectators saw around 50 vessels from 15 different countries docked around the city.

Ships from Ecuador, Portugal, Spain, France, Norway, Sweden and Denmark are competing in the race, which begins on Monday at 10am off the coast of Portrush.

Police also thanked all those who attended “this week’s hugely successful Tall Ships event”.

Belfast City District Commander, Chief Superintendent Nigel Grimshaw, said: “We are extremely pleased at the public’s co-operation over the four days. Motorists, although at times delayed on the roads, were largely heeding our advice.

“The traffic management systems worked effectively. We acknowledge at times there was congestion on some roads but I think the public will appreciate that with any major public event, traffic disruption is inevitable.”

Chief Supt Grimshaw added: “The Tall Ships event has proven once again that Northern Ireland can host the very biggest events successfully and safely.”

James Pearson, 34, from Belfast said he travelled regularly to see the Tall Ships.

“There is something romantic about them, they really are a symbol of a bygone era,” he said.

Janice Devine, 46, said: “I think it is a tremendous endorsement of Northern Ireland, when you think how many options they had of where to start, they started here.

“We need to have more events like this, it created a real buzz about the place.

“It is just a pity we have to say goodbye to the boats.”

Among the last to leave was the giant Brazilian naval vessel the Cisne Branco, its crew waving goodbye to well-wishers as it nosed its way carefully out into the River Lagan.

The name means the White Swan and the ship was busy all weekend with guided tours while crew scaled the masts checking the rigging.

After leaving Northern Ireland, the ships will visit Aalesund and Kristiansand in Norway and then Aalborg in Denmark.