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Tall Ships

What is a Tall Ship?

A tall ship is a traditionally rigged sailing craft. They differ from more modern sailing vessels in that they do not use newer materials (such as aluminium and steel) and have more complex rigging as a result. Traditional rigging may take the form of square rigs and gaff rigs, with separate topmasts and topsails. Popular modern tall ship rigs include topsail schooners, brigantines, brigs, and barques. The term tall ship has come into widespread use in the mid-20th century with the advent of Tall Ships’ races.

Making their Gloucester Tall Ships debuts are the brigantine Morgenster, handmade schooner Atyla, Baltic trawler Keewaydin and topsail schooner Vilma.



Built in 1919, the Dutch brigantine started out life as ‘Vrouwe Maria’ (Lady Maria), a fishing ship patrolling the North Sea. After various improvements and expansions, the name was changed to Morganster in 1959. The ship has also been used for sport fishing and was once used as a radio ship for Dutch station Radio Delmare. It was used as a sail training ship during the nineties, but since 2008, Morganster can found sailing in European waters once again.

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Hailing from Bilbao in Spain, Atyla was designed and hand-built to the artisanal standards of 19th century Spanish shipwrights. It was constructed between 1980 and 1984 with a mission to follow in Ferdinand Magellan’s footsteps and circumnavigate the globe. When the voyage fell through, the schooner found work in the tourism industry in the Canary Islands, ultimately staying in Lanzarote for 19 years. Atyla found a new captain in the original shipwright's nephew and took part in the Mediterranean Tall Ships Regatta 2013. Since then Atyla has been used as a sail training ship.

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Built in 1913 as a Lowestoft sailing smack (a type of fishing vessel), Keewaydin spent her early years trawling the banks of the North Sea, until 1937 when she became a cargo vessel sailing the Baltic Sea. During the Second World War, Keewaydin ferried refugees from Denmark to neutral Sweden, and in one particular trip, transported 420 cammandos to their destination. She was converted into a yacht in 1963 and had the distinction of entering the very first Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race in 1972. After being used as a charter ship in the Mediterranean for many years, she became a training vessel, and has moved home ports from Cardigan to Falmouth.

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The Welsh slate topsail schooner actually started out life as a ketch-rigged Danish sailing fishing boat in 1934 and built in the classic style. Since 1996 she was refitted with a classic Welsh schooner rig operating out of the Menai Straits. The Vilma will be taking part in pirate ship battles during the Gloucester Tall Ships festival.

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