In the summer of 1972, Barclay Warburton III of Newport, Rhode Island, his two sons, and several friends sailed his brigantine Black Pearl across the Atlantic to participate in a tall ships race from Cowes on the south coast of England to Malmo in Sweden. This race was organized by what was then known as The Sail Training Association. Warburton was so inspired by the enthusiasm and spirit he saw in that international gathering of tall ships and young people that he set out to bring the same kind of spirit to the United States. Through his efforts, the American Sail Training Association was founded in 1973 and became the first national association to formally affiliate with what is now known as Sail Training International.
The American Sail Training Association’s efforts in its first decade were primarily focused on organizing tall ships races using the European model. From the mid-1980’s to the mid-1990’s ASTA began its efforts broadly aimed at promoting sail training and supporting education under sail in North America. At the beginning of the 21st century, ASTA (now known as Tall Ships America) evolved into an organizer of tall ships races, an industry association for the growing numbers of vessels involved in providing opportunities for people of all ages to take part in deep water sailing experiences, and a public charity which makes sail training more available and affordable for young people.
Sail training began as a practical and effective way of training young men for careers in the navy or merchant marine. In the years since World War II it has drawn inspiration from the Outward Bound movement and a growing interest in the environment and maritime history. Different from learning to sail, sail training offers unique paths to adventure, personal growth, and education through the experience of sailing a tall ship. Each year more ships and programs are launched as schools, municipalities, museums, foundations, corporations, and individuals discover the almost limitless ways in which the sea and sailing ships can enrich the human experience.
With an organizational membership of over 250 vessels, Tall Ships America serves as a forum for information exchange, professional development, and program standards. Through such initiatives as the Council of Educational Ship Owners, which worked successfully for the passage of the Sailing School Vessels Act of 1982 and the Sailing School Vessels Council founded the following year, Tall Ships America has continued to work with the US Coast Guard and other agencies to create and maintain a friendly regulatory climate for the development of sail training.