Strong winds mean Tall Ships won’t leave Lerwick until Monday

The departure of over 50 Tall Ships from Lerwick has been delayed for 24 hours due to forecasts that strong northerly winds are to persist. The fleet had been due to leave on Sunday afternoon, but will now begin undocking at 11am on Monday, followed by the Parade of Sail at 5pm.

Lerwick Tall Ships Races 2011 project manager Fiona Dally said the planned live music programme will be extended to keep everyone entertained on Sunday evening. As well as live music at Holmsgarth until 11.45pm and a DJ set at the dance tent at Laurenson Quay, the music programme at Victoria Pier has been extended until 11pm tomorrow.

Tonight’s sellout Bjorn Again concert at Holmsgarth and the fireworks display are both going ahead as planned. Friday night’s concert headlined by The Levellers was deemed a resounding success despite the elements, with the veteran folk-rockers including anthems One Way of Life and What a Beautiful Day in their near two-hour set.

“All of our crew facilities located throughout the waterfront will continue to be available free to access for the next 24 hours,” said Ms Dally. “I’d also like to thank the liaison officers who have made themselves available to extend their assistance to the Tall Ships until their departure.”

Sail Training International race director Paul Bishop said the postponement had come after “careful consideration” because strong northerly winds are expected to continue.

He said: “We have been monitoring the weather reports closely and there is a complex low near Denmark which will maintain strong northerly winds through the North and Norwegian seas as a weak ridge remains to the west of the country. The low will only slowly fill during the following days as winds slowly ease with the ridge remaining to the west of the UK.

“The fleet can all withstand such tough weather conditions but in the interest of enjoyment in addition to safety, we don’t feel it necessary to make a challenging race any more challenging for our trainees and crews.”

Lerwick harbourmaster Calum Grains said delaying the departure by 24 hours was “not a problem” for the port authority, which was “happy to be able to assist the fleet”. He said the fish market at Lerwick would not operate on Monday, but the market at Scalloway is available.

The decision has forced NorthLink to modify its plans for an RNLI fundraising cruise. The sold-out cruise was to have allowed around 420 passengers to take an “up close and personal” look at the fleet as it set out from Lerwick.

The cruise will still go ahead with an altered schedule. It had been due to sail with the Tall Ships through Lerwick Harbour, past Breiwick and down to the north of Moussa. Ticket sales have been raised for the Lerwick RNLI branch.

NorthLink commercial director Cynthia Spencer said: it had been a “difficult” decision at such short notice and with 400 people to contact.

She said: “This is extremely disappointing for all of those who had bought tickets for the cruise but the postponement of the Tall Ships Race is due to circumstances which are beyond our control. Safety of vessels and crews must always be the primary consideration.

“After consulting with the RNLI we have decided that a cruise will still go ahead and, weather permitting, Hjaltland will still leave Holmsgarth Terminal at 1330 as scheduled but on a modified route. The RNLI in Lerwick have said that they will be happy to make a 50 per cent refund to any ticket holder who wishes to get in touch with them.”

Ms Spencer added: “If the weather proves too bad even for Hjaltland to leave harbour then it is our intention to hold an on-board open day when it will be ‘access all areas’ for those who have bought tickets and who will be offered guided tours of areas of the ferry not normally open to members of the public. Cream teas will still be laid on!”


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