The Tall Ships could be sailing into Ramsgate once again following discussions between Thanet council and Ramsgate regeneration group members.
Talks are underway for the traditionally-rigged sailing vessels to use Ramsgate as one of the port stops during racing in 2021 – to coincide with celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the royal harbour.
The harbour received its royal status – the only one in the UK to hold such an honour – in 1821 when King George IV visited Ramsgate several times.
He received such a friendly welcome on visits of embarkation to Hanover that on his return to London he decreed that Ramsgate Harbour should receive the title of The Royal Harbour of Ramsgate and that his Royal Standard could be raised three times per year – January 29, July 19 and August 12 (accession to the throne, coronation and His Majesty’s birthday.)
Since the 175th anniversary in 1996 Ramsgate has flown the Royal Standard three times a year. This was set up and is still run by the Ramsgate Events Group, the town mayor, Ramsgate and Broadstairs Sea Cadet Corps and the town chaplain.
The Tall Ships Races are organised every year by Sail Training International, whose members offer sail training.
Each year ships from around the world gather together to participate in challenging offshore and ocean racing, and to share and enjoy shoreside festivities and celebrations. These events are youth-focused and half of the crew of each vessel needs to be under 25 to participate.
Between 20 and 30 ships are expected to use the harbour if the deal is agreed.
Thanet council leader Bob Bayford said: “A port can be involved either as a start or finish point or a drop in point.
“The Tall Ships were last here in 2009, when there were 24 vessels, and we are looking at 20 to 30 being abe to come in 2021, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of Royal Harbour status.
“We have agreed to pursue feasibility work and are working with a Ramsgate regeneration group. We are very keen for this to happen.
The event is expected to attracted between 250,000 and 500,000 spectators over a four-day period bringing in revenue of between £12m-£24 million. Costs of the event could be around £500,000.
Cllr Bayford said; “Everyone knows Thanet council has not got £500,000 so we will be relying on sponsorship and other funding streams, which we are currently exploring.”
Funding is also being sought to bring the Regency sluice gates back into operation.
Cllr Bayford said: “This would probably keep the port and harbour more sand and silt free than they currently are and make access for bigger width vessels. There is also great interest inn industrial heritage.”
The harbour cross wall, sluices, bollards and dry dock basin gates are Grade II* listed. The cross wall was completed in 1779. There are seven sluices (three blocked) in the wall to scour out the main harbour.
At the Inner basin the 1821 original gates are still in position.
Thanet council will compile a report detailing what work needs to be done on the sluice gates.
The 200th anniversary event will also include the unveiling of a bronze bust of King George IV by isle artisan Dominic Grant. More plans are being made by Ralph Hoult and Thanet Community Development Trust and residents taking part in Regency Ramsgate meetings organised by Steve Coombes.