28-31 August 2014

World’s greenest cargo vessel heralds Falmouth’s great Tall Ships Festival

 The arrival of a rum and chocolate-laden schooner-brig from the Caribbean into Cornwall’s historic port of Falmouth was a nod back in time to the Great Days of Sail and forward to one of this year’s great maritime events – the Falmouth to Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Regatta at the end of August. 

The two-masted Tres Hombres sailed up to the ancient Custom House Quay to unload her cargo of ethically-sourced Caribbean goods to a waiting horse and cart much as she might have done two centuries ago – raising awareness and reviving an industry in shipping goods under sail. 

The whole scene – enhanced by the presence of the Westcountry ketch Bessy Ellen – gave waiting crowds a taster of the fine sights to come in four months’ time when Falmouth hosts more than forty great sailing ships from around the world ahead of their unique race to the Isle of Wight before cruising in company along the Thames to Royal Greenwich.

Tres Hombres is the world’s only transatlantic, engine-less cargo vessel – owned and operated by Fairtransport Shipping and working with New Dawn Traders, a Bristol-based initiative aiming to revive the UK’s sail cargo industry. Between them they aim to create an emission-free fleet of sailing cargo ships to remove fossil fuels from international supply chains.

 As the ship’s joint owner Arjen van der Veen puts it, “How sustainable is a product if it’s not also transported in a sustainable emission-free way?” 

The feats of seamanship of the crew of the Tres Hombres achieved under sail today is just what the world-famous Falmouth Packet ships and other fleets of old would have taken for granted. It is those magnificent nautical skills which will be celebrated when the great Tall Ships return to Falmouth on August 28 for four days of festivities before they set sail on August 31 for the Falmouth to Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Regatta, accompanied into Falmouth Bay by a flotilla of hundreds of vessels from the surrounding area. 

“Seeing Tres Hombres in port gives us a real buzz as it’s a foresight of the wonderful sailing ships we’ll be welcoming here in August – including some of the world’s biggest four-masted Tall Ships,” says Sam Groom, who, as Festivals and Events Manager at Visit Cornwall – Cornwall Development Company’s tourism service,  is heading the Falmouth Tall Ships team. 

Tres Hombres crew member Iona Wallis adds, “There is an enormous sense of achievement that we are doing something unique and special by sailing without an engine and proving that it is still possible to sail into harbour, all hands on deck, as we drop the sails and throw the lines. 

“We sail into ports all over the world, but to be arriving in such an historic and fine harbour as Falmouth, in such beautiful weather was really special. The welcome that we received was incredible; music, dancing and all the people who came to watch our arrival and share in our adventure.” 

This was a small, sweet taste of what is to come in Falmouth at the end of August when the port hosts a colourful and vibrant programme of shoreside activities for an expected 100,000 visitors to celebrate the ships’ stay in the port, including live music, entertainment, exhibitions, displays, concerts, children’s activities, a ship’s crew town parade and a splendid fireworks send-off.

Image: Toby Weller