The first Operation Sail event, a tie-in with the New York World’s Fair, brought tall ships from around the world to New York Harbor for a grand parade of sail up the Hudson, led by the USCGC Eagle as the host ship. Many of the vessels raced from Plymouth, England, to Lisbon, Portugal, before setting off on a 3,000-mile transatlantic journey to Bermuda and then a 630-mile northwest run to New York.
The event also featured lifeboat races, a ticker-tape parade up Broadway honoring seamen of every participating nation, and two grand balls. Mayor Robert Wagner proclaimed that week in July to be “Operation Sail Week,” and Secretary of the Navy Paul Nitze reviewed the parade of sail from aboard the USS Randolph. It was the largest peacetime gathering of sailing ships up to that point in the century: 12 Class A vessels, 11 Class B and C vessels, and thousands of spectator craft.