Seventeen tall ships, more than 40 warships, 8000 navy personnel from 19 nations and almost two million visitors flooded into Sydney during the first two weeks of October for the International Fleet Review. The celebration was to commemorate the centenary of the first Royal Australian Navy fleet entry into Sydney Harbour on 4 October 1913, with activities and events spanning nine days.
A wet and overcast day did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm with large crowds venturing out to welcome the tall ships into Sydney Harbour. Lord Nelson, Lady Nelson, Spirit of New Zealand, Tecla, Europa, Coral Trekker, South Passage, Picton Castle and Yukon made the museum their base with their captains and crews a welcome addition to the museums community for the duration of the IFR and Tall Ships festivities.
On October 4, the anniversary of the first fleet entry, people crowded to witness seven warships follow the same route as the first Royal Australian Navy vessels into Sydney Harbour. This was an impressive sight with the namesake ships of the original seven, HMAS Sydney, HMAS Parramatta, HMAS Yarra, HMAS Darwin, HMAS Perth, HMAS Bundaberg and HMAS Diamantina, making the journey.
The formal ceremony for the fleet review occurred on the Saturday with Governor General Quentin Bryce in the role of Reviewing Officer. This was followed by impressive military displays including aerial displays and flypasts by Australian and visiting aircraft and a spectacular pyrotechnics and lightshow in the evening centred on Sydney Harbour and the Opera House.
The two main days for public access to the ships saw thousands of people visit Garden Island, Barangaroo and the museum wharves in Darling Harbour for a rare chance to get on board the vessels. Crews and hundreds of volunteers worked tirelessly to ensure each day ran smoothly with almost two million visitors enjoying the long weekend. The museum offered various sailing and ferry opportunities that allowed the public and members onto the harbour to see the vessels up close from the water. Additional entertainment was provided by the RAN Navy Band and several visiting bands from the UK, New Zealand, South Africa and Nigeria.
At the end of the review the tall ships gathered in Sydney Harbour for the 2013 Sydney to Auckland tall ship race. The challenging conditions had four vessels retire, with HMB Europa coming home strong to land first place.
With the review now over, the tall ships remain in Auckland to continue the International Tall Ship Festival and the warships have departed for training activities on the east coast of Australia. We wish all ships a safe journey home and thank all captains, crew, staff and volunteers for their hard work during the nine days of the International Fleet Review and Tall Ships Festival!