The eighth edition of the Armada, the world's largest gathering of tall ships, kicks off on Thursday in Rouen, in western France, and lasts for ten days.
Six million visitors are expected for the Armada which is France's biggest event in terms of visitor numbers on a single site.
In total, 45 tall ships will be present.
They include the traditional three-mast Belem (France), Cuauhtemoc (Mexico) and Dar Mlodziezy (Poland), the frigate Normandie and the terre-neuvas Marite, which is a hundred years old this year. The Bima Suci, an Indonesian ship, will aso be present for the first time.
Over 30 nationalities are represented with nearly 7,000 sailors from all over the world.
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Visitors will be able to access the seven kilometres of docks on the city's right and left banks of the Seine.
All the tall ships and naval vessels can be visited - for free - from 10am to 5pm on each day of the event.
'Voiles de la Liberte'
The festival goes back to the early 1980s, when Jean Lecanuet, the then Mayor of Rouen, was looking for an idea to revive the city's docks.
His deputy suggested a race from Rouen to New York to celebrate the centenary of the Statue of Liberty in 1986.
Eight multihulls took part in the race, known as the 'Course de la Liberte. ( The Freedom race)
The 23-metre catamaran Roger et Gallet, skippered by Eric Loizeau and Patrick Tabarly, won the race after sailing to New York in 14 days.
Lecanuet, who was present at the finish of the race was so impressed by the popular success of the rac as a follow up, he created 'The Sails of Freedom' ('Les Voiles de la Liberte'), to celebrate the bicentenary of the French Revolution.
The first edition took place between 9 and 16 July ,1989.
The Armada was given its current name in 1994 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy.