The international meeting reinforces bonds of fellowship and camaraderie among participating navies.
Between March and September, a unique parade of training ships of armed forces from around the world will cruise Latin American waters of the Pacific and the Atlantic. A total of 11 training ships will participate in the event, visiting 16 ports in Latin America and the Caribbean as they travel 12,000 nautical miles (more than 19,000 kilometers).
Sails Latin America 2018 (Velas Latinoamérica, in Spanish) began on March 25th in the port of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and will end on September 2nd in Veracruz, Mexico. In its third version, the tall ships regatta will provide a unique opportunity for crewmembers to train and exchange professional knowledge.
“The opportunity here is precisely because of the differences with a regular instructional cruise,” Chilean Navy Captain Carlos Dietert, general coordinator for Sails Latin America 2018, told Diálogo. “In terms of navigation and ship operation, there aren’t any major differences; however, to be part of this large international nautical event allows them to interact with peers from other navies and create bonds of friendship and professional exchange, which will stay with them for the remainder of their careers.”
For cadets and sailors who make up the crews, the event means a lot more than navigating and sharing experiences with their counterparts. It’s also an opportunity to learn the skills and techniques of officers aboard the different training ships. “On each leg of the journey, exchanges take place based on the availability of the respective commanders, and the scheduled activities and academic requirements,” explained Capt. Dietert.
Representing Latin America during the event are training ships from the navies of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Two training ships from Europe joined the regatta.
“For this 2018 version, a letter of invitation was sent to every country that has tall ships,” said Capt. Dietert. “Unfortunately, due to planning issues and seasonal differences between the continents, only the Spanish and Portuguese [ships] could attend.”
The voyage of the sailing ships will last 157 days. Ships will dock at ports in Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico. For the 2018 version of the event, ships are scheduled to dock for the first time in the ports of Balboa, Panama; Willemstad, Curaçao; and the island of Cozumel, Mexico.
Training and festivities
More than a learning opportunity at sea for the cadets and sailors that make up the ships’ crews, the event allows them to discover different traditions and cultures, and share experiences with the people at every port they visit. The event also represents a significant tourist and economic contribution for host ports.
“In every port visited, it’s a party for the citizens with multiple social, cultural, and athletic activities that bring joy to the people,” said Capt. Dietert. “It allows the crews to interact with them and learn the idiosyncrasies of each country they visit.”
In addition to being able to witness the unique characteristics of each of the tall ships, such as their size, number of masts, type of sails, and other details, Capt. Dietert emphasized the different military traditions on display. “It is interesting to take advantage of ceremonies, parades, and other similar events to learn the differences in uniforms, the military ways, and traditions of the different participating navies.”
Meanwhile, Captain Claudio de Sousa Freitas, deputy chief of the Brazilian Navy General Staff, stressed the positive impact of the event, which seeks to “strengthen the bonds of friendship between the different navies and the population of the countries and ports visited.” Capt. de Sousa Freitas added that the ships passed through Rio de Janeiro for the second time. “This year, we returned to Rio de Janeiro as our starting point because Rio is an attractive destination and is always a very big attraction for the ships that come visit us.”
Major Chilean responsibility
The Chilean Navy organized Sails Latin America 2018 and took advantage of the occasion to reach several milestones in the institution’s history. In addition to celebrating its Navy’s bicentennial anniversary, Chile is also commemorating the 200-year anniversary of the creation of the Arturo Prat Naval Academy, the formation of its Marine Corps, and the maiden voyage of the First Chilean Navy Squadron.
“The Chilean Navy is an institution that was not only born with the Republic, but has also been a pivotal actor in our country’s development,” said Admiral Julio Leiva, commander in chief of the Chilean Navy. “The relevance of the past is joined with the present, in which the Navy joins in the effort of the entire government to make Chile a more developed and prosperous country, commemorating two centuries of service to the country with an event of this magnitude.”
The meeting of tall ships was born in 2010 with an initiative of the Chilean and Argentine Navies under the name Sails South America (Velas Sudamérica, in Spanish). At the 25th Inter-American Naval Conference in 2012, the Latin American navies agreed to change the name to Sails Latin America and hold the event every four years. The Argentine Navy organized the 2014 version.
“What is special about this is the mutual understanding and the relationships of friendship that are established,” concluded Capt. Dietert. “Moving forward, it facilitates the relationships among our navies, and consequently among our countries.”