On 26th July an unusual spectacle will hit the shores of Lerwick. A fleet of over a hundred tall ships will dock on the island on a route that starts in the Netherlands, passes through Hartlepool, and then across the North Sea to Norway before reaching Lerwick. 

All of the action of the event, and the surrounding sold-out festival taking place from 26-29 July, can be viewed via live stream on The Herald website. 

A truly international affair, this is the first time the race will appear on Scottish shores since 2011 when Greenock was a dock on the route, which went from Waterford to Sweden via Lerwick.  Although it has been twelve years since the last Scottish appearance in the race, it will only be a two-year wait until the next with Aberdeen being chosen as a docking point for 2025. 

Read more: Tall Ships Races in Shetland - Everything you need to know

This historic race first took place in 1956 and sailed from Torbay to Lisbon with twenty tall ships taking part. 

Devised by retired London Solicitor Bernard Morgan, the aim was to “create a brotherhood” at sea with seafarers from around the world. 

This brotherhood even saw the USSR joining the competition in 1976, with the Kruzenshtern taking part, racing from Bermuda to Newport. Built in Germany, the ship was actually surrendered to the USSR in 1946 as part of war reparations. 

In the first race in 1956 an Argentinian ship was the first to cross the line in the first iteration of the event, though it was actually won by a British ship Moyana on the corrected time. 

Jubilation of winning the race was short-lived however as disaster struck on the way back to Southampton with Moyana hitting a storm and sinking. All 23 officers and crew were taken off safely and with the presence of mind took their winner's trophy with them. 

Read more: Tall Ships Shetland: The Herald to broadcast this year's race

The race was planned as a one-off but was an overwhelming success, particularly in the countries where the boats docked. This success has only grown over the years with an estimated five million spectators at the four ports in 2013. 

To organise the yearly races which began in 1978 a charity Sail Training International (STI) was set up This international association of national sail training organisations is devoted to promoting "the education and development of young people of all nationalities, religions and social backgrounds, through sail training", with the event aimed at 16-25-year-old sailors.

Since its inception, the organisation has had a royal seal of approval. The Duke of Edinburgh became a patron of the charity and as part of the DofE foundation has set up his own tall ships youth trust. Sail Training International also credits Earl Mountbatten with kickstarting the project.