Round-the-world Independence Sail

It was undoubtedly one of the greatest cruises in the history of the Dar Młodzieży, and even more broadly speaking in the history of the white and red flag. The sailing ship covered 38,000 nautical miles, having embarked nearly 1,000 young people in total throughout the period of 313 days - students of maritime schools and winners of the national qualifying competition.


The concept of the great voyage matured at the Maritime University of Gdynia, which has been the shipowner of "Dar Młodzieży" for years. Routes were carefully planned, various alternatives were considered and the sailing ship was kept seaworthy at all times allowing the commencement of the voyage of global circumnavigation at any time.

The centenary of Poland's reappearance on the map of Europe turned out to be the moment when the idea of the great undertaking gained widespread approval and government support. This is how the "Independence Sail" was born. The history of the 100 years of the Reborn Republic of Poland deserved worldwide publicity. The role of an ambassador was given to the Dar Młodzieży – a genuinely Polish tall ship, built by the Gdansk Shipyard, with her homeport in Gdynia and manned with Polish crew. Throughout her 36 years of service, she trained a massive number of cadets who are employed all over the world on board ships. Combining the anniversary with a visit to Panama during the World Youth Day strengthened and elevated the symbolic importance of this undertaking.

There are many great cruises in the history of Polish maritime education and training, voyages being milestones in the history of Polish sailing. However, the round-the-world voyages make the best of them all. Twice in history, sailing ships operated by Gdynia Maritime University  circumnavigated the globe. “Dar Pomorza” did it in the years of 1934/1935, and its successor "Dar Młodzieży" in the years of 1987/1988, taking the most challenging route around the three capes.

Every journey planned, today or in the past – no matter if it is a spectacular one or not, requires a lot of hard work from the cadets. Taking a part in the seamanship training is the time of overcoming fears and weaknesses, a real personality test because “Dar Młodzieży” has never aspired to become a celebrity of seas and oceans. Putting solidity and high-quality training in the first place, “Dar Młodzieży” successfully and consistently builds the prestige of the Polish maritime education and indeed is a matter of pride for the Polish flag.

The Independence Sail undertaking aimed at meeting several goals. The first and the foremost one was to promote our country in the context of the centenary of Poland’s independence. Entrusting Dar Młodzieży with the task was a very strong point of the whole project. A sailing ship having hundreds of young people on board in total at subsequent stages of the journey, was an attraction herself wherever she entered a port on the route. Together, they spread a clear message about Poland as a country with well-established maritime traditions, open to the world, having rich history and deeply rooted in the history of Europe.

The crucial role of ambassadors was played by two major groups of young people. The most numerous group made the students of Gdynia Maritime University. Together with a smaller group of maritime secondary school students, they were undergoing seamanship training, which is an obligatory element of their maritime education. It was supplemented by groups of young people from all over Poland - winners of the qualifying competition. The students were divided into 8 groups and they exchanged one another as the route progressed. A total of 1,000 students took part in the project.

The round-the-world route was carefully planned bearing in mind the promotional purpose of the project. The initial Baltic stage was a kind of prelude, an unusual beginning of the globe circumnavigation.

On a sunny noon in Gdynia on the 20th of May, all of Poland bid farewell to "Dar Młodzieży" thanks to the media coverage. The seats of honour by the vessel’s port side were taken by Prof. Janusz Zarębski the Rector of Gdynia Maritime University, the Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki, representatives of the government, parliament, local government and church authorities.

“I believe that thanks to the cruise and the young ambassadors, a part of our homeland will be hosted in many places around the world. You create history, ... Tell the world how beautiful Poland is” – this message was conveyed to the project participants by Marek Gróbarczyk - the Minister of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation.

The Rector of the Maritime University of Gdynia, Prof. Janusz Zarębski emphasized that circumnavigating the world under sails had always been a unique undertaking: “In all ports where our sailing ship will call, she will fly the white and red flag, and her arrival always arouses great interest and positive emotions.”

“Poland is a big deal indeed” - Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki highlighted in his speech – “Let this frigate under full sail remind about the incredible work and effort of our ancestors, about the reconstruction of the independent Polish Republic and about the great work which is still ahead of us ...”.

The first stage of the voyage was commanded by the Capt. Ireneusz Lewandowski, and he, on a sunny Sunday noon on May 20, 2018, brought "Dar Młodzieży" to the Great Circle.

After a basked in sunshine farewell ceremony in Gdynia, the Baltic Sea greeted them with similar summer aura. Most of the sea passage to Tallinn was accompanied by sunny and windless weather. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, was the first port of call on the way of this historic voyage. There, the participants of the cruise honored the memory of the ORP "Orzeł" crew, which in 1939 brilliantly escaped from internment in Tallinn. Moments of historical recollection were frequent and essential elements of the voyage.

The centerpiece and a much-awaited element of the voyage, influencing the sailing schedule, was Panama, where on January 22-29, 2019, "Dar Młodzieży" and her young crew participated in the World Youth Day. Apart from the promotional and training character, the cruise also had a clear spiritual dimension. Every stage of the journey was accompanied by a chaplain.

From Tallinn to Copenhagen, then the Norwegian fjords of the Stavanger region and ... return to Poland, to Szczecin, to take part in the World Maritime Day Parallel Event being the biggest maritime event of the United Nations and IMO (International Maritime Organization). And from that moment "Dar Młodzieży" headed towards the Great Circle crossing the Danish Straits, calling at Bremerhaven, Bordeaux, and Santa Cruz in the Canary Islands. In each of the ports, a special setting - meetings with representatives of local authorities, performances promoting the independence message of the cruise, active participation of Polish community living abroad and sightseeing of the ship.

The ship’s call at the port of Dakar was a result of developing cooperation between Gdynia Maritime University and African countries in the field of maritime education. The support for maritime schools emerging on the African continent and education of African students in Gdynia have become important elements of scientific and didactic activity of the Maritime University.

On the way to Cape Town, having crossed the equator for the first time during the passage, the Dar Młodzieży entered the southern hemisphere for several months. There, the neophytes experienced the Equatorial baptism being an old maritime ritual. King Neptune and his companions visited the vessel and those who had never crossed the Equator before underwent sophisticated torture. All those who proved themselves seaworthy became holders of certificates being a proof of a successful initiation into the court of King Neptune. During the trip, Neptune boarded the white frigate for the second time in October between Borneo and Sumatra, before the arrival in Singapore and return to the northern hemisphere.

In Singapore, at the halfway point of the Independence Sail, there was a change in the position of "the first after God". The MM. Ireneusz Lewandowski was relieved by the MM. Rafał Szymański. The official change on the bridge took place in Singapore. Both commanders are experienced sailors and graduates of the Gdynia Maritime University. Both were trained on board the S/V Dar Pomorza. Ireneusz Lewandowski graduated in 1975, and Rafał Szymański in 1983.

In the Far East scenery - from Jakarta, through Singapore, Hong Kong - on the day of the hundredth anniversary of regaining independence, they reached Osaka. That was the third visit of our sailing ship to this Japanese port. The earlier calls had taken place in 1983 and 1997. This time, the centenary of Poland’s Independence was celebrated with the sounds of the national anthem of Poland - "Dąbrowski's Mazurka", also known by its incipit, "Poland Is Not Yet Lost"  and ubiquitous white and red colors.

After saying goodbye to Japan, "Dar Młodzieży" started her longest ocean stage of this expedition - across the Pacific to the ports of the west coast of the United States. After 32 days she arrived in San Francisco covering the distance of 5,311 nautical miles. For the first time in his history the tall ship visited the ports of California -  San Francisco and Los Angeles where they spent the Christmas Eve. The New Year's Eve was celebrated on the way to Mexican Acapulco. The culmination of the trip - World Youth Day was held in Panama. The crew comprised of students and winners of the competition participated in that extraordinary all-world meeting. The crew delegation was received by His Holiness Pope Francis.

Panama opened the return stage. Heading towards the Atlantic waters they visited Cartagena and Florida. Traditional, large Polish community ball, the Polonaise led by the ship’s master Rafał Szymanski, visits of compatriots and tropical temperatures of the Caribbean. Two more stops in the Bahamas and Madeira, and on March 13, 2019 at 21.25, in the English Channel, the sailing ship, after traveling 32 487 nautical miles, closed the loop around the world, cutting the course on June 24, 2018.

The twenty-third port of call being the last foreign port on the route of the Independence Sail was London. Ahead of the ship there was only the homeport of Gdynia. On March 28, 2019, in a fairy-tale scenery,  the vessel emerged from an exceptionally thick fog just beside the quay ending the longest passage in her history known as the Independence Sail. They got a very warm welcome-home

Over the period of 313 days, "Dar Młodzieży" covered a distance of 38,000 nautical miles and 948 young people in total embarked and disembarked the vessel, including 539 students of the Maritime University, 61 maritime secondary school students and 348 laureates of the competition. The members of the regular crew also changed over the period. The lists of names for subsequent stages comprise 77 names in total, including two commanders.

The Independence Sail, a great sailing and logistics undertaking, has become a historic event. It was a great maritime adventure and an important date in the history of Polish maritime education and training.Aleksander Gosk (UMG)    

Aleksander Gosk (UMG)    

I.Wierzbowska 08.05.2018
Last edit:
I.Wierzbowska 09.09.2020