The Blyth Tall Ships Regatta has been 'exceedingly well attended', pulling in 'hundreds of thousands' of visitors.
The four-day event, which was the largest to have ever taken place in Northumberland, was the UK's only regatta in 2016. While final details are being worked on, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people visited the event, coming from near and far. A detailed analysis will be taking place over the next few weeks to evaluate the event and to determine the extent of the impact on the local and regional economy, which was expected to be in the region of £8million.
As well as 23 majestic tall ships, the North Sea Tall Ships Regatta - which started on Friday and ended today - offered more than 1.5 miles of free entertainment. Visitors were able to climb on board some of the ships, enjoy free family fun, live music, street theatre, fair ground rides and nightly fireworks and evening performances.
The event included an extensive cultural programme, thanks to a £120,000 grant from Arts Council England and National Lottery funded Grants.
Activities stretched from the beach right up to the town centre. Highlights included the crew parade and re-enacted Blyth carnival which involved 1,000 people on Saturday afternoon. It also included a nightly fireworks performance which was accompanied by a film and musical score created by Swedish artist Cecilia Stenbom and UK composer Chris Sharkey who have worked with local people from Blyth and Gothenburg to produce the performance. The event culminated in the magnificent Parade of Sail this afternoon, when the Tall Ships left the Port of Blyth, accompanied by up to 70 flotillas, and sailed down the coast to St Mary's Lighthouse before sailing five miles out to sea ready to start their 500-plus nautical miles race to Gothenburg.
More than 1,000 staff and volunteers worked during the event, with many accommodation providers in Northumberland sold out over the weekend. There are 80 trainees aged between 15 and 63 years who will get their first taste of life aboard and working on a Tall Ship. Many of which are from Northumberland and 33 have been supported by Northumberland County Council ward councillors. There were also 140 volunteers, again most from Northumberland who helped over the four event day event in various roles. The volunteers have been thanked for their efforts.
Northumberland County Council, in partnership with the Port of Blyth and Sail Training International, hosted the prestigious regatta. Fergusons of Blyth, one of the UK’s leading privately-owned haulage companies and the biggest in the North East, was the principal sponsor for the event in celebration of its 90th anniversary.
Coun Val Tyler, cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture for the county council, said: “The last four days have been a magnificent and memorable event - to see the joy and excitement with thousands of people who enjoyed themselves is something that will be a lasting memory for me.”
Martin Lawlor, chief executive, Port of Blyth said: “The port, the people, the ships and everyone else involved this weekend has done Blyth and the wider region proud. While we are sorry to see the ships go the impact they have brought will be felt well into the future."
Alan Ferguson, chairman of Fergusons of Blyth, said: “The regatta has been a fantastic success and we were so proud, in our 90th year, to be the main supporter of this huge event. The regatta showcased what this town can do and should be a springboard for its continued growth.”
The event proved popular with visitors. Sue Symes visited the festival with her husband Mick. She said: "We attended the event on Saturday and had a fantastic day from our start at midday until 9pm to see the spectacular fireworks.
"I was very much looking forward to the event and wasn't disappointed at all. From our arrival at the park and ride north to the bandstand area and back we managed to see just about everything. The highlights for me were the parade of the crews, so vibrant and fun, and of course the fireworks! Too many other things to mention but just an all round great, friendly experience. I feel proud to come from the North East.
"Well done to everyone involved in making this a great experience, there was plenty to do and see for all ages and for such a small community Blyth you should be proud! Thank you."
Debbie Kings, from Nottingham, said: "It's the first time we have been to Blyth - not our first trip to Northumberland though. It's also the first time we've ever been to an event like this - hence why we were so impressed. Loved the yellow wrist bands for children - saw it in action when a very upset little boy was found by a policeman who promptly phoned mum. Thought the stewarding around the town was spot on. And the sheer enthusiasm of everyone, the smiling faces - terrific!"