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Stirring welcome for Tall Ships in Aberdeen as excitement builds for arrival of races in 2025

Three tall ships will be docked at Port of Aberdeen this weekend on their way north to the Lerwick races.

The sound of drums and chanting echoed across Aberdeen harbour this morning as the Indonesian Navy sailed into the city.

More than 100 crew members onboard the Bima Suci were welcomed to the north-east for the first time with excited applause.

They waved from high up on the sails and even performed a rendition of Jingle Bells while a solo bagpiper played from land.

The Indonesian Navy’s largest sail training ship has docked in Aberdeen en route to Lerwick for the 2023 Tall Ship Races, having left Surabaya three months ago on April 2.

Commander M. Suti Lubis said he and the crew felt “blessed” to sail to Scotland for the first time.

He said: “This is the first time for us doing the Tall Ship Races so our next port is Lerwick. This is the first time we have sailed to Europe since the ship was built, we feel lucky.

Indonesian Navy setting up ramp to ship
The crew setting up to welcome people onboard on Friday morning. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson.

“We’ve been sailing to Europe for almost three months and are now in Aberdeen. The North Sea was a bit of a challenge for our crew but it’s been a good experience for training.”

During their fleeting visit to the Granite City, the crew plans to explore as much as possible and also attend Jummah prayer at Aberdeen Mosque and Islamic Centre.

The Bima Suci has joined Swedish sail vessel Atlantica, while the Norwegian Statsraad Lehmkuhl, a three-masted barque built in 1914, will arrive at Port of Aberdeen tomorrow.

On Saturday, 400 lucky north-east residents will be able to go onboard as part of a sold-out ticketed event to learn about the ship’s rich history.

Kickstarting the journey to 2025 Tall Ships Race in Aberdeen

The arrival of the three tall ships marks the start of a two-year countdown until Aberdeen hosts the Tall Ship Races in 2025, giving the city an opportunity to further explore its maritime history.

Recognised as Europe’s largest free family event, the races previously visited the Granite City in 1991 and 1997.

Roddy James, chief commercial officer at Port of Aberdeen, said: “It’s great to see these vessels coming into the port and it’s a great contrast to what the port is. We’re Britain’s oldest business but we also have the newest port in South Harbour.

Bima Suci sails
The Bima Suci arrived in Aberdeen on Friday morning. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson.

“With these ships we have the mix between old and new which is great to see. We’ve got the Bima Suci which was built in 2017 while the other vessel coming in today was built in 1914.

“This weekend really kickstarts our journey to 2025 and gives the whole of the north-east a flavour of what will follow. We’re reminded every day in the harbour events because we have some fantastic photos from 1997, we’re all very excited.”

More than half a million people are expected to attend the event when it returns between July 19-22, 2025 – with the local community being encouraged to play their part.

How can you get involved?

From today, the public and businesses can register their interest to support the four-day celebration in July 2025 via the newly launched website.

A number of opportunities are available which will all help bring the Tall Ship Races to life in the north-east.

Indonesian Navy on the Bima Suci
The Indonesian Navy is visiting Aberdeen for the first time. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson.

Roule Wood, business engagement manager for Aberdeen Inspired, said: “It’s a huge opportunity for Aberdeen and we’re delighted to have the website launch today. We’re encouraging everyone to get involved and there are so many different opportunities.

“The one that stands out is the opportunity for local businesses to showcase their goods to international visitors. At the main event, there will be numerous stages and performance spaces.

“We have seen visitor numbers at tall ship races across Europe continue to grow, it’s phenomenal to see. And, there’s a great impact on the local youth, we’ll recruit about 100 sail trainees and support them in terms of funding as well so there are no obstacles.

“The impact that this experience can have on young lives, it challenges them, it’s an adventure and a huge confidence boost.”

Young people between 15 and 24 are being offered the life-changing opportunity to be a sail trainee and experience life upon a ship.

Bima Suci interior
One of the social spaces of the Bima Suci. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson.

‘Get onboard’

A variety of volunteers positions, including meet and greet and information points stewards, are available, as well as sponsorship opportunities.

Local businesses are also asked to show their interest for commercial trading and hospitality over the four days.

The Tall Ship Races is also launching a cultural programme which will give performers, musicians and artists the chance to get involved.

Bid partners Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeen Inspired and Port of Aberdeen are working together to bring the event to the city.

Bima Suci
The Bima Suci sailed into the harbour en route to Lerwick. Image: Port of Aberdeen.

Ian Yuill, Aberdeen City Counciol co-leader, added: “It’s great to welcome this very impressive ship from Indonesia to Aberdeen this weekend, I was fortunate enough to get shown around by the captain.

“This visit has taken my mind back to 1997 and we’re obviously looking forward to that again in 2025 when the port will be full of tall ships.

“I would encourage everyone to get involved – and get onboard- with the races. It’ll be a fantastic time with a buzz around the city.”