More than 40 ships have arrived in Hartlepool to take part in the Tall Ships Race.
It is claimed that the event, which begins on Saturday, could attract as many as one million people to the town over the four days it is being held.
The Tall Ships Race takes place every summer in European waters.
Up to 6,000 young people from more than 30 countries take part, with at least half of each crew being made up of people aged between 15 and 25.
A total of 58 vessels are due to take part.
The event is being organised by Sail Training International.
Its race director, Paul Bishop, said: "The captains and crews have received a tremendous welcome in Hartlepool.
"Some of these vessels have sailed from as far away as Russia and Indonesia and it means so much to them when they get a warm welcome like they have had in Hartlepool.
"Clearly, people in Hartlepool are going the extra mile and I think we're in for a great time here."
Crews will parade through the town in uniform or fancy dress on Sunday and on Monday, and a huge pyrotechnics display will mark the end of the Eve of Sail celebration before the ships leave on Tuesday.
Hartlepool mayor Stuart Drummond said: "We're putting the finishing touches together for the first official day on Saturday.
"A lot of people have worked really hard to make the event a success and put Hartlepool and the North East firmly on the map."