Seven cities of the Baltic seacoast – Klaipėda, Karlskrona, Rostock, Riga, Gdansk, Szczecin, and Nysted – have been running the Baltic Sail project for over a decade. With the purpose of promoting traditional sailing as part of European maritime heritage, the cities encourage and invite owners of traditional sailing boats and antique ships to join the Baltic sea voyage, to visit and beautify local sea festivals with their sails.
The Baltic Sail Committee is the official decision-making body of the organisation. The committee consists of member city representatives: one representative per member city, who is appointed by a corresponding city, represents its interests and has the right to vote.
A particular concern for the Baltic Sail Organisation is the fostering and preservation of historical ships, which are regarded as unique keepers of history. Their restored versions are still sailing the seas, thus, representing the live tradition of cultural heritage and passing the sailing experience on. Partners of the Baltic Sail believe that past knowledge in combination with today’s environment may contribute to future narratives.
The regatta family was formed in 1997, now it hosts eight ports: Gdansk and Szczecin (Poland), Klaipėda (Lithuania), Karlskrona (Sweden), Nysted (Denmark), Rostock and Sasnitz (Germany), Riga (Latvia). Besides, the project involves the Polish National Maritime Museum in Gdansk, the Swedish Naval Museum in Karlskrona, the Shipbuilding and Maritime Museum in Rostock. The selection of the partners is in line with the activities funded under the programme, i.e., regional projects with at least one neighbouring country (Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Russia (Kaliningrad region), Belarus, Ukraine), in search of the common denominator of nations and cultures. Klaipėda confirmed its commitment to participate in activities by signing the Baltic Sail Agreement 2017-2021.
In the recent decade, there were just few Lithuanian projects on the fostering and popularisation of traditional sailing and old shipping traditions run, while owners of traditional sailing boats and antique ships were hardly involved therein. As a result, today our country is little known among foreign enthusiasts of sailing and sailboat preservation. Similar projects encourage owners of traditional sailing boats and antique ships to take a journey on the Baltic Sea, to visit the Lithuanian port on their way, to explore the Baltic Region as a special space of maritime culture and sailing. This is a unique opportunity to give open classes on actualisation of the marine heritage and creative workshops for children and youth on types of historical ships, their prevalence, and operation nowadays.
In 2015, on completion of the project, funded by the Cultural Council, organisers succeeded to invite a historic sailboat “Nao Victoria” (Spain), the exact replica of the Ferdinand Magellan fleet’s sailboat which was the only ship that had managed to return from the very first expedition around the world. This was the sailboat’s first visit not only in Lithuania, but also in the entire Baltic Sea Region. The sailboat was equipped with a museum; an entertaining educational programme was prepared for visitors to introduce them to the history and traditions of sailing. This sailing boat alone received more than 1,000 visitors during its four-day stay in Klaipėda.
In 2018, the seaport of Klaipėda is going to host historic sailing boats and ships on 27-29 July, the days on which the traditional Sea Festival is back in the city, whereby sailboats and yachts, moored at the Cruise Ship Terminal, on the Danė River, and in Pilies Harbour, welcome residents and guests of Klaipėda on board; educational workshops for children and young people are held.
Baltic Sail enhances national maritime identity, creates opportunities for the dissemination and fostering of maritime cultural traditions.