Officially opened on Thursday evening, the festival’s more than 230 traditional sailing ships are expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors through Sunday. Highlights include the German Navy’s training ship the “Gorch Fock” and Russia’s “Mir,” currently the fastest windjammer in the world.
Organisers are hoping nice weather will encourage a big turnout that might help offset plunging corporate interest in sailing trips in the wake of the global economic crisis. The director of Hanse Sail, Holger Bellgart, said the number of firms reserving spots on the classic sailing ships plunged 30 percent this year.
“We assume that many will only decide to go once they’re on the pier enjoying the nice weather,” he said.
But visitors could be reminded of the tough times by protesting shipyard workers worried they’ll soon lose their jobs. Employees of the newly insolvent Wadan shipyards in Wismar and Rostock hope to draw attention to their plight with demonstrations during Hanse Sail.