The Largest Parade of Ships in the World

Every five years the parade of ships ‘Sail Amsterdam’ takes place. In August thousands of vessels, from small sailboats to large replicas of caravels, arrive together at the IJ bay north of the city and then pass to the capital of the Netherlands. In 2015 involving 8,000 vessels!

SAIL Amsterdam is a quinquennial maritime event in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Tall ships from all over the world visit the city to moor in its eastern harbour, and people can then visit the ships.

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The event was organised for the first time in 1975 to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Amsterdam, under the name ‘Sail Amsterdam 700’. At that time, interest in tall ships, which had sunk to a low since the 1930s when the last commercial tall ships had been built, was starting to rise. The success of Sail Amsterdam 700 led to the establishment of the Stichting Sail Amsterdam (SSA, Foundation Sail Amsterdam).

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Sail is one of the largest maritime manifestations in the world, and the largest event of any kind in the Netherlands. Tens of tall ships and hundreds of other historical ships are involved. Numerous other ships and boats are present besides the participating ships, amounting to 8000 boats in the 2000 edition.

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Lesser events take place during the festival, involving small sailboats, sailor choirs or re-enactments of naval battles. The Sail In or Parade of Sail on the first day attracts many other small ships, including creations like a sailing organ (with trumpet accompaniment) or a train converted to a ship. On the next to last day there is a naval pageant and on the last day the ‘Sail Out’.

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If I have to attend one of these events, the reason why I would go is to not only see the tall ships sailing once again but also to clamber over one of them. It is definitely on my bucket list.




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