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Previous OpSail Events


The first Operation Sail event, a tie-in with the New York World's Fair, brought tall ships from around the world to New York Harbor for a grand parade of sail up the Hudson, led by the USCGC Eagle as the host ship. Many of the vessels raced from Plymouth, England, to Lisbon, Portugal, before setting off on a 3,000-mile transatlantic journey to Bermuda and then a 630-mile northwest run to New York. The event also featured lifeboat races, a ticker-tape parade up Broadway honoring seamen of every participating nation, and two grand balls. Mayor Robert Wagner proclaimed that week in July to be "Operation Sail Week," and Secretary of the Navy Paul Nitze reviewed the parade of sail from aboard the USS Randolph. It was the largest peacetime gathering of sailing ships up to that point in the century:12 Class A vessels, 11 Class B and C vessels, and thousands of spectator craft.


Operation Sail 1976 provided a centerpiece for the U.S. Bicentennial celebration. The event, which took five years to plan, featured even more tall ships than the 1964 gathering, including the Soviet Union's czarina of the sea, the Kruzenshtern, which Frank Braynard had won over gainst all political odds on a trip to Moscow. The ships raced from the Canary Islands to Bermuda, then proceeded "in company" to New York, where they were met by a vast spectator fleet. In partnership with the Navy, Operation Sail 1976 also resurrected the tradition of holding an International Naval Review, which brought together a peacetime armada of 50 warships under as many flags. From the deck of the USS Forrestal, President Gerald Ford reviewed the parade of sail, complete with a 21-gun salute. In Frank Braynard's estimation, it was "the biggest assemblage of ships since the Battle of Navarino in 1827," and as one skipper recalled, "The hospitality of New Yorkers in 1976 has never been matched."


Operation Sail 1986 celebrated the Statue of Liberty's centenary with an even more diverse array of vessels representing an even greater number of countries-a fitting tribute to what Lady Liberty represents in the eyes of generations of immigrants and their descendants. The first ship to arrive, the Christian Radich from Norway, was hailed by former Vice President Walter Mondale. The USS Iowa greeted the visiting ships, joined by the John F. Kennedy with Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman, Jr. aboard. More than 30,000 spectator craft turned out, and the July 4th fireworks spectacular illuminated the entire fleet with what was billed as the largest pyrotechnic display in American history.


Operation Sail 1992, which marked the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' Atlantic voyage, was planned as a joint venture with Gran Regata Colon and generated even greater interest from mariners and the public. Setting out on a journey that retraced Columbus' route in 1493, the fleet, which included pine-and-oak replicas of Columbus' caravels, sailed from Cadiz to La Gomera, then on to Puerto Rico for a 10-day regatta before making its way to New York. In addition to tall ships, the regatta included more than 300 modern racing and cruising boats, 200 of which were in a class that required 50 percent of the crew to be under the age of 21. It was the first time that sail training had been extended to contemporary sailing vessels on such a magnitude.


Operation Sail 2000 served as a tremendous celebration of the coming of the new millennium. It unfurled as a greater nautical spectacle than ever before, with the largest peacetime assembling of naval and training ships to date-120 tall ships, more than 40 warships from around the world, and 70,000 smaller pleasure craft. On the fourth of July in New York Harbor, President Clinton reenacted for only the sixth time in history the ritual that President Grover Cleveland had first carried out from aboard the USS Dolphin in New York's inaugural International Naval Review in 1893. This time, from aboard the USS Hue City, Clinton reviewed a 17-mile-long formation of imposing, gray-hulled titans-the frigates and destroyers of navies around the world, each man-of-war firing a one-gun salute as the president passed. In addition to the large-scale celebrations in New York, other ports hosted parades of sail from San Juan, Miami, New Orleans, Norfolk, and Baltimore up to Philadelphia and New London.