The Tall Ships Races sailing event will not take place in Turku this summer. On Tuesday 25 May, the owner of the event, Sail Training International (STI), has agreed between the participating ports that due to Finland’s current travel restrictions, it is not possible for ships to arrive in Turku with their crew changes and events.

Turku has expressed its interest in hosting the event the next time it is possible in the Baltic Sea, in 2024.

Earlier this week, the City of Turku notified STI of the restriction and coronavirus situation in Finland for them to consider in their decision. The main arguments in the status report issued by Turku are national restrictions concerning entry into the country and gatherings as well as concerns for the safety of Finns.  The event was planned to take place in the bank of the Aura River in Turku on 5–8 July 2021.

The City of Turku has sent STI a statement of Jutta Peltoniemi, the City's Chief Physician for Infectious Diseases, according to which the organisation of the event is too great a threat to the people of Turku in the current global coronavirus situation. The statement clearly describes all the reasons that prevent the event from taking place in Turku in July 2021.

“If about a thousand foreign citizens were to come to Finland and Turku for The Tall Ships Races 2021 in a short time, it would pose special challenges and threats to the health safety of the region. People would come to the event from all over the world and the majority of them would be young adults who have not yet been comprehensively vaccinated,” says Peltoniemi in her statement.

The main concern is the possibility of coronavirus travelling with crews and replacement crews. All of the host ports of The Tall Ships Races in summer 2021 are located in countries where the incidence of coronavirus is significantly higher than in Finland. Due to the regulations and restrictions related to border control and the event itself, the health safety of new arrivals cannot be ensured in such a large event.

Current restrictions concerning gatherings also have an impact on Turku’s view of the matter. In Southwest Finland, there is currently (25 May 2021) a restriction on the gathering of a maximum of 10 people, both indoors and outdoors, at public events.

In previous years, The Tall Ships Races have attracted more than 100,000 visitors along the riverbank every day. It is not possible to conduct such a public event in a safe manner, even if the restrictions on public events are slightly relaxed in July.  If implemented, an event of this scale could endanger the health of the residents of Turku and the vicinity of Turku, and even the entire population of Finland, while the national vaccination coverage is still insufficient.

“While it is regrettable that a major event is cancelled, the city's primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of its residents. However, we strongly believe that great sailing ships will return to the banks of the Aura River once the pandemic has been overcome and the event can be organised in its entirety,” says Jarkko Virtanen, Ownership Steering Director and Chairman of the Port Committee responsible for organising the event.

On 20 May 2021, the Finnish Government decided that the entry restrictions into the country will be extended until 15 June 2021, as the coronavirus pandemic is continuing and sufficient measures to compensate for the restrictions are not yet in place. For this reason, and in order to prevent the spread of virus variants, internal border controls and restrictions on external border traffic have been continued in Finland.

A policy proposal regarding the cancellation of The Tall Ships Races public event will be brought to the Turku City Board meeting on 31 May. As the TSR event is cancelled, the Tall Ships Races Music Festival planned for 5–6 July in the Linnanpuisto park is also cancelled. In addition, a proposal to express interest in hosting the 2024 competition will be presented to the Turku City Board.

Turku will not be completely without a maritime event this year, with two sailing events taking place at the end of July. The Swan European Regatta, organised in partnership with the Turku Yacht Club, will take place in the bank of the Aura River and in Airisto from 21 to 25 July, and the Airisto Classic Regatta, organised by Airisto Segelsällskap, will bring sailing boats to the Ruissalo shipyard from 29 to 31 July.