The first Tall Ships Festival was held in 1976 as part of America’s Bicentennial. It was the largest gathering of its kind and featured the greatest sailing ships from a bygone era. While visitors enjoyed the tours, demonstrations and parades, there was a quiet undercurrent of political intrigue surrounding some of the vessels.
KRUZENSHTERN The Soviet Union’s four masted barque at 346 feet in length, was the largest ship. It just barely fit under the Newport Bridge at low tide. Built in 1927, it was a Soviet war prize from the fall of Hitler’s Germany and allegedly lost a crew member to a sudden defection while at Newport.
EAGLE and DANMARK Sister ship barques at 266 feet. Both were built in Germany in 1936 and were seized from the German government after World War II. Both sail training vessels, the Eagle is based in New London and is the flagship of the US Coast Guard.