More than 50 vessels are racing from Falmouth to the Isle of Wight before they reach Greenwich for the Tall Ships Festival - billed as the biggest such event on the Thames for 25 years.

Once the race is complete the fleet will make their way to Greenwich where they are due to arrive for a five-day festival event.

News Shopper:

Greenwich Council is expecting up to a million visitors for the festival, which runs from September 5 to September 9, including parades, flotillas and onshore entertainment.
The ships are due to reach the finish line off the Isle of Wight in the next 24 hours. From there they will sail up to the Thames Estuary then up the River Thames to Greenwich.

Leader of Greenwich Council Councillor Denise Hyland said: "The images from Falmouth over the weekend were absolutely magnificent and we really cannot wait for the Tall Ships to arrive here with us later this week.

"It’ll be fantastic to welcome all the crews too and especially the 50 young people from the local area who are currently enjoying this incredible experience."

News Shopper:

In Falmouth, more than 230,000 people were estimated to have visited the port over a four-day period.

Tall Ships event manager for the Cornwall stage Sam Groom said: “Our initial estimates for spend per head already sit at a total of £8.5m but this is only for day visitors and does not include the accommodation and hospitality spend of all of the thousands of people staying in and around Falmouth and across Cornwall.

"Many hotels, bed and breakfasts and self-catering options were booked-up more than a year in advance for this event and from June onwards it was almost impossible to find a bed in Falmouth, so the major input into our economy is obvious.”

News Shopper:

Highlights of the festival:

• A crew parade on Saturday, September 6 of up to a thousand crew and uniformed personnel from local organisations parading through the historic streets of Greenwich.

• A Royal Pageant on Sunday, September 7; Her Majesty The Queen’s row barge Gloriana will sail down the river with an escort of traditional rowing boats.

• A parade of traditional Thames Barges along the river on Friday, September 5. 

• Riggers Aloft – the chance to marvel at a team of skilled riggers as they hoist sails and climb amongst the historic Cutty Sark’s rigging. 

• The chance to see performances of sea shanties plus a whole host of different music pop ups and bandstand performances across the four sites. 

• A full programme of events, activities and exhibitions at the National Maritime Museum, the Old Royal Naval College, the Cutty Sark, The Royal Observatory and Greenwich Heritage Centre. 

• A Parade of Sail, as the vessels depart on Tuesday, September 9.