Waterford hoping for €35m wave of spending during Tall Ships festival


WATERFORD’S HOSTING of the Tall Ships Race will be worth an estimated €25 to €35 million to the regional economy, with 500,000 visitors expected to attend the four-day festival.

According to Fáilte Ireland’s head of operations, Gary Breen, it is estimated each visitor will spend €70 but because some of the 500,000 visitors may be people who visit on more than one day, the total spend could be up to €35 million.

He said approximately 30 per cent of the 500,000 visitors expected to attend the festival will be international visitors, many of whom will visit Waterford on day trips from neighbouring counties.

Mr Breen said the Tall Ships would complement the development of the Viking Triangle in the city, which it is hoped will provide a major tourist attraction. The refurbished Bishop Palace was recently opened and Reginald’s Tower has also undergone a refurbishment. The Medieval Museum of Waterford opens next year.

The chairman of the Waterford Tall Ships Race 2011, Des Whelan, said the success of the event in 2005 had created a great civic pride in the city and had helped persuade people and businesses to come on board for this year’s event.

“People saw we could host an event of this size successfully so it meant people were willing to get involved again and we’ve raised over €1 million locally in sponsorship, which is a huge sum.”

Mr Whelan said the Waterford Tall Ships website had received almost 200,000 hits, with some 27,000 coming from people in Dublin.

Waterford hotels are reporting near-full bookings for the festival, which will be officially opened by Taoiseach Enda Kenny at 3pm today on William Vincent Wallace Plaza on the quays.

Deirdre Houlihan, marketing manager with FBD Hotels which owns the Tower Hotel in the city centre and Faithlegg House Hotel, told The Irish Times that bookings had begun almost a year ago and had been filling up in recent months.

Some 45 ships are participating in the race with the tallest, the Class As which include the Christian Radich from Norway, Mir from Russia, Dutch entries Astrid, Eendracht and Wylde Swan and Lord Nelson from the UK.

Among the Irish entrants will be the Naval Service’s sail training yacht, Credine, and Celtic Mist – the yacht formerly owned by Charlie Haughey which the Haughey family has donated to the Irish Whale Dolphin Group.

Meanwhile, a British-registered tall ship en route to Waterford was involved in a collision with an Irish yacht early yesterday.

The RNLI’s Rosslare lifeboat under coxswain Eamon O’Rourke and the Irish Coast Guard’s Waterford-based helicopter were tasked with responding to the incident, which occurred just after 2.30am some 10 nautical miles southeast of Rosslare harbour.

No one was injured in the collision, when the 120ft Irene of Bridgewater, a century-old sailing ketch, struck the 37ft yacht Seven Season its port side.

The alarm was raised by the British ketch, which had 15 crew and trainees on board and was en route from Belfast for the Tall Ships race.

The yacht was “unlit”, and “apparently stationary” and in the shipping channel at the time of the incident, according to the Irish Coast Guard.

It said that there were two people on board, but the RNLI said that there was one on board at the time of impact.

Three lifeboat crew boarded the yacht, which had lost its mast, as well as sustaining considerable damage on its port side, and was at risk of sinking.

It was taken under tow by the RNLI Rosslare lifeboat into Waterford. The Irish Coast Guard helicopter was stood down and the ship continued on its passage into Waterford.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board and the British Marine Accident Investigation Branch may both conduct inquiries into the incident, or co-operate on one inquiry, given that the vessels were of Irish and British registration respectively.

The Irene of Bridgewater played the vessel the Flying Dutchman in the film biography of composer Richard Wagner. It was built in 1907 and is the last of the British west country trading ketches still under sail.

Ship shapes and sounds fashion and music attractions

A FASHION show on a majestic Russian sailing ship and a concert by Brian Ferry will be among the opening attractions at the Tall Ships festival in Waterford today.

The fashion show, “Decked Out”, will start at 7pm on the Mir, which will be berthed at the North Quays, while Ferry will be performing in a ticketed event at 7.15pm with support from Dervish at the Bolton Street Car Park.

At 10.30pm there will be the first of three spectacular fireworks displays by a British firework designer, Roger Brown of Pyrofantasia, over the river Suir.

On Friday at 9.15am, Waterford hopes to set a world record for the biggest number of pirates in one place when children are invited to the Bolton Street car park.

Later on Friday at 3pm, the Crews Parade promises to be a noisy and colourful affair when thousands of young sailing trainees and regular crew members will march from the bus station on the Quay to the People’s Park, accompanied by marching bands.

Mike Scott and the Waterboys, with support from Waterford outfit O Emperor, will provide Friday’s musical entertainment at Bolton Street, and the day again closes off with another fireworks display from Pyrofantasia.

Spraoi are organising street theatre for the duration of the festival. Sharon Shannon with guests Damian Dempsey and Dessie O’Halloran perform on Saturday evening.

While the fireworks display will close the official celebrations at about 11pm on Saturday, the revelry is sure to continue into the early hours of Sunday morning – but not for the crews whose ships begin departing at 7am on Sunday morning.

The Parade of Sail, when all 50 tall ships sail down the river Suir, proved hugely impressive back in 2005. Dunmore East will be a particularly good viewing point.