We can’t wait until the Tall Ships Race 2023 arrives in Lerwick this summer! The Aurora team in Shetland will be helping to welcome flocks of international visitors to the isles, soaking up the buzzing atmosphere and enjoying four days of live music and family activities, all set against the spectacle of those beautiful masted ships at harbour. What’s more, in celebration of this iconic event, we are delighted to reveal Aurora’s stunning new Tall Ships collection.
Designed by Teresa Shearer, our Tall Ships collection comprises necklaces, brooches, earrings, cufflinks and charms, handcrafted in sterling silver, featuring a ship motif inspired by a traditional Shetland sailing vessel, the Swan, which is taking part in this year’s Tall Ships Race. The Swan’s painstaking, six-year restoration in the 1990s captured hearts and minds across the Northern Isles and today she is seen by many as a symbol of community, hope and renewal.
The annual Tall Ships Race is a very special event because it celebrates the sailing heritage of nations across the world and encourages the next generation of sailors. Young people aged 15-25 make up half of each ship’s crew – these young sailors are shown the ropes – literally! – participating in real-life sail training, forging new friendships and making memories that are sure to last a lifetime.
Over 30 ships have confirmed their participation this year, hailing from across Europe and also further-flung locations such as Indonesia and Uruguay. The ships set out from Den Helder in the Netherlands by 2 July, racing to Hartlepool in England, then race on to Fredrikstad in Norway and arrive in Lerwick by 26 July. The Shetland leg is what is known as the ‘Cruise in Company’, a relaxed leg of the circuit that invites the participating ships to explore the hospitality at guest ports (including, in 2023, Scalloway, Cullivoe, Baltasound and Uyeasound in Shetland, Stromness in Orkney, and Aberdeen on the Scottish mainland) as they make their way to Lerwick to enjoy four days of fun and entertainment. They then depart Lerwick by 29 July and race the final leg across the North Sea to Arendal in Norway.
As the ships depart Lerwick harbour, there’s sure to be a crowd waving off Shetland’s Swan, whose restoration almost 100 years after she was first launched was a tribute to island and maritime heritage, community spirit and collective craftsmanship.
The Swan is a timber fishing vessel, a ‘Fifie’, built and launched in Lerwick back in 1900. She sailed with the herring fleet in the summer months, following the shoals of ‘silver darlings’, as the herring were called, around the Northern Isles and then down the east coast of Scotland and England. She worked through Scotland’s early-twentieth-century herring boom which employed thousands of fishermen, coopers and merchants, as well as itinerant herring lassies who gutted and packed the landed catch.
Later, the Swan was re-rigged to fish the inland voes around the isle of Whalsay, and later still she was fitted with an engine to give her a new lease of life. After half a century’s service in Shetland’s rich fishing waters, she was retired and sold to be used as a berthed houseboat in Grimsby.
But retirement didn’t suit her and by the 1980s the Swan was in a state of disrepair. After a partial restoration, she was put up for sale in 1991 and spotted by Shetlander and maritime expert Tom Moncrieff, who raised funds to bring her back to Shetland for a full and fitting restoration.
What followed was a six-year labour of love by the islands’ best maritime craftsmen. In 1996 the glorious Swan sailed from Lerwick to Whalsay, where she was reunited with some members of her old crew.
The Swan has been gracing the waves around the Northern Isles ever since, welcoming private and community groups onboard, and operating as a sail training vessel for young sailors. And just this month the Swan was given the well-deserved honour of being named one of 2023’s six Flagships of the Year by National Historic Ships UK.
We are delighted to make a donation to the Swan Trust, to support the fantastic work they continue to do, opening up access to traditional maritime practices.
Can’t wait till the Tall Ships arrive either? Our Tall Ships collection is available online now and in our Lerwick, Kirkwall and Thurso stores.