Great Yarmouth Maritime Fesitval set to be biggest yet

Stephen PullingerAs many as 40,000 visitors from all parts of the region are expected to flock to Yarmouth's 10th anniversary Maritime Festival, which is being billed as the biggest yet.Stephen Pullinger

As many as 40,000 visitors from all parts of the region are expected to flock to Yarmouth's 10th anniversary Maritime Festival, which is being billed as the biggest yet.

The event, which began modestly with just 5,000 festival-goers in its first year, is expected to welcome the 200,000th visitor in its history some time during the weekend of September 5 and 6.

Twelve visiting vessels, including three tall ships, have already announced their intended arrival along South Quay, and tourism officer Alan Carr last night revealed that an impressive fourth tall ship might be a late addition to the festival line-up.

The three confirmed tall ships are the three-masted barque Artemis, the popular Grand Turk frigate, a former star of the TV Hornblower series, and the Jubilee Sailing Trust's Lord Nelson, one of only two boats in the world designed for wheelchair users to man.

Festival-goers who wish to sail the North Sea can do so aboard the Tall Ship Artemis and river sailings will also be on offer.

The Royal Navy is planning to send three ships into port for the festival, including the patrol boat HMS Raider and the HMS Hurworth mine sweeper, which visitors will be able to board.

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Families will also be able to look round Yarmouth's Lydia Eva, the last steam drifter, with its on-board exhibition telling the ship's story, and the MV Coronia, a pleasure boat built in Yarmouth in 1935 which used to set sail from the Britannia Pier.

Lifeboats from Caister and Gorleston will be on display along with the Wherry Hathor, the MTB102 and the Southern Belle pleasure boat.

Landlubbers, who prefer to keep their feet on terra firma, will have plenty to keep them entertained.

Shanty and maritime music will be performed throughout the festival at three different venues up and down South Quay - the main stage, the fo'c'sle and in Horatio's Bar - with a packed programme of artists including the Tyneside Maritime Chorus, the Cromer Smugglers and the Jolly Rogers from Centre 81.

A Natural England exhibition looking at what lives in the sea around our coasts, and including a lot of popular children's activities, has been expanded for its second year, and there will be an RSPB display and telescope so that visitors can bird-spot from South Quay.

Mr Carr said: "About 200 people have been involved in preparing the festival, which has received more than 1,000 hours of voluntary support.

"Over the two days, 448lb of herring will be eaten and 720 maritime songs will be sung. A mile of quay space is being used for the festival."

He said the event was a key plank in the council's strategy of extending the tourism season. It would be followed in the same month by the borough's first Heritage Open Days and the second Out There Festival.

People interested in sailings on the Artemis should telephone 01493 332200 to book.

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