About 60 vessels have arrived in Hartlepool to take part in the Tall Ships festivities.
It is hoped that the event, which begins on Saturday, will attract as many as one million people to the town over the next four days.
The Tall Ships Race takes place every summer in European waters.
It is the second leg of the event and Hartlepool mayor Stuart Drummond said the town was "buzzing" with excitement.
The event has been organised by Sail Training International.
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.
Mr Drummond said: "The atmosphere down there is already buzzing. We're set for a fantastic event.
"There are 60 Tall Ships there ranging from the class D ones - which are about the size of big yachts - right up to the massive class A, really spectacular ones.
"We've also got the Indonesian and Russian navy there.
"We've got a site of about a square mile hosting all sorts of entertainment activities, live music, fireworks, you name it."
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.