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Next year’s tall ships visit to be Boston’s biggest since 2000

The Spanish Navy’s Juan Sebastian De Elcano in Boston Harbor in 2015. Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/File

Amid the burgeoning Seaport District — dotted with cranes and emerging buildings — a fleet of historic tall ships is expected to sail into Boston next year for an international event that is receiving a much warmer reception from city officials than in earlier years.

Sail Boston 2017 is part of a trans-Atlantic regatta planned to begin in England and continue racing to Portugal, then Bermuda before stopping in Boston, the only US port on the schedule.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Thursday expressed full support for the event, saying it will be a boon for tourism and a showcase for Boston’s developing waterfront on an international stage.


“Sail Boston is certainly going to have a tremendous impact on our city, and certainly our economy,” Walsh said at a news conference promoting the event. “Millions of people are going to be flocking to our city to stay in our hotels, to visit our museums, to eat in our restaurants, to shop in our shops.”

The ships, which are scheduled to arrive in Boston Harbor exactly one year from Thursday, are expected to attract 4 million tourists and generate more than $100 million for the state’s economy, said Dusty Rhodes, president of Conventures Inc., which is coordinating the tall ship festival.

While city and state officials on Thursday welcomed the 2017 event with open arms, the narrative was much different in the past.

In 2009, when the ships were set to return, then-Mayor Thomas M. Menino said Boston would not back the event because of financial concerns — notably, a $1.6 million bill for security costs the city was left with after a similar celebration in 2000.

A muted version of the event was held that summer as tall ships arrived without the usual fanfare of fireworks and a maritime parade, but only after Menino and then-Governor Deval Patrick struck a deal that included $1 million in state money to cover security costs.


The fanfare was toned down in 2012 for similar reasons.

On Thursday, officials promised that next year’s event, from June 17 to 22, will feature the whole spectacle — including tall ships sailing around the harbor before docking, known as the parade of sail.

“This year, because of the support from Mayor Walsh and Governor Baker, we are able to have the first parade of sail since 2000,” said Nicole Francoeur, development director for Sail Boston. “It is what people want to see, and without it, the event tends to be a little lackluster.”

Walsh said the event’s public safety budget is still in early planning stages.

“All of [the public safety costs] are going to work into the budget,” he said in an interview. “We are still a year away, the planning stages are still moving forward, and we’re still securing sponsorships.”

Rhodes said Sail Boston has “every reason to believe” the city will provide support as needed.

James Carmody, general manager of the Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, said he expects the hotel to be booked to capacity for the six-day event. Despite past controversy and hefty security costs, Carmody, a Sail Boston board member, said the 2017 event should be “breathtaking.”

“It really is an incredible spectacle . . . even on TV it is a very dramatic thing to watch,” he said. “It is an expensive proposition, but we have millions of people that come.”


Now, if only the weather holds up.

Trisha Thadani can be reached at trisha.thadani@globe.com.