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"Enjoy the experience, because it will be VERY different."

That was the message from Princess Anne as she visited Sunderland today ahead of the Tall Ships Races' visit to Sunderland in 2018. The Princess Royal told an audience at Sunderland's National Glass Centre she was 'amazed' the city had not hosted the event before.

"The Tall Ships have a way of attracting very large numbers of people," she said. "So it is entirely proper that you should have it here in Sunderland I am amazed you have not had it before.

"I am sure you will make the best possible use of the event."

The Princess' visit was a very special event for brothers Kieran Boyce and Saul Cranston.

Kieran, 17, and Saul , 14, from Houghton, were presented to Princess Anne at the National Glass Centre ceremony. The pair were among four trainees who travelled to Sunderland from Hartlepool this morning aboard training vessel The Black Diamond of Durham, which is based at Hartlepool Marina.

 The Princess Royal is on Wearside today as part of the build-up to the Tall Ships Races' visit to Sunderland in two years' times.

For Kieran and Saul, it was a first opportunity to try their hand at crewing a vessel. "It was a bit choppy, but it was okay," said Kieran. "At least no-one was sick."

"I nearly was," admitted Saul. The brothers were excited about the opportunity to take part in the Tall Ships Races. "I can't wait," said Kieran.

Black Diamond skipper Calvyn Whitehand and his crew were joined by Captain Steve Moorhouse, of Sunderland's adopted ship HMS Ocean, and his second-in-command Commander Nick Wood as well as the four trainees.

Keiran and Saul were introduced to the Princess Royal alongside 15-year-old Amy West, from Newcastle, and Sophie Jordan, 19, from Durham. All four will be taking part in the Tall Ships Races when they come to Sunderland.

This afternoon's reception launched the Sail Training Ambassador programme, which aims to encourage young people to take part in the prestigious celebration of sailing when it comes to the city.

Sail Training is an adventure activity, which includes far more than sailing instruction. Participants are required to confront demanding challenges, both physical and emotional, and is run with the aim of inspiring self-confidence and personal responsibility. It promotes an acceptance of others, whatever their social or cultural backgrounds, and develops a willingness to take controlled risks. Those who undertake Sail Training on Tall Ships generally find it a positive life-changing experience.

The programme will give nominated representatives from schools and community organisations across the city and region the chance to undergo sail training in the build up to the race event at which they will be given berths on a variety of competing vessels.

Paul Bishop, head of the race directorate at Sail Training International, added: “Sail Training International’s charitable objectives are to promote international friendship and understanding and we organise these spectacular races to give young people the opportunity to experience a sail training adventure of a lifetime.

"We fully support Sunderland’s initiative to run a Sail Training Ambassador programme, which is an incredible opportunity for young people in the region to take part in the world-class Tall Ships Races. I would encourage anyone aged between 15 and 25, with a sense of adventure, to find out more and get involved. You won’t regret it.”

(by Kevin Clark, Sunderland Echo, 9th May 2016)