150 years ago there were hundreds of pilot gigs deployed around the Cornish coastline. The crew of the gig’s job was to be the first to row out and get a pilot on board approaching sailing ships in the Western Approaches – it was a cut-throat business. Today, the competitive spirit of that era is embodied in gig racing competitions around the Cornish coastline throughout the summer months. Newlyn is proud to play host to Mount’s Bays annual Fish Festival competition which can see up to a dozen gigs fighting it out for the Trafalgar Trophy – a superb, replica in copper, of the original Newlyn rowing lifeboat.
Held inside the harbour so that everyone gets a grandstand view of the action the competition is a series of knockout sprints that start from the South Pier at the far end of the harbour finish just in front of the fish market. Each race is akin to to the kind of Olympic sprints that local rowing hero, Helen Glover is famous for the world over. The rowers always appreciate being cheered on over the closing stages of each sprint!
Mounts Bay provide an exciting commentary from an ex-rower with inside knowledge of the boats and teams – prize giving will be held on the balcony of the harbour offices around 1:30pm.
Explore the lifeboats in the harbour
Newlyn provides a home for the Penlee all-weather lifeboat Ivan Ellen and the inshore rescue boat Mollie and Ivor Dent – which is being named on the Saturday before the festival this year! Also on display – and for sale – is the long awaited book, Service not Self written by Rachel Campey ably researched by lifeboat secretary, Elaine Trethowan. Fish Festival ticket-holders will have a rare opportunity to see round both lifeboats and talk to the crew – provided they don’t get called out on a shout!
Don’t forget, you can buy signed copies of the book at the Fish Festival!
Cornish Fishing Luggers
Thousands of luggers fished for pilchards and herring around the coast of Cornwall – Newlyn’s fleet like many other travelled the length and breadth of Britain in search of fish, often staying away for months at a time. The lug rig is the most efficient sailing rig – provided you have a fit and able crew to sail the boat to its maximum potential.
The Ripple, Barnabas and Happy return are each examples of the different kinds of luggers built on the beaches of West Penwith. The Barnabas is the oldest sailing lugger in the world, built in 1881 and has recently completed an around Britain sail! The Happy Return is owned and run by the Mounts Bay Lugger Association – and she is available for charter, especially for traditional sail festivals here in the UK or abroad. The Ripple is a restored St Ives lugger originally built in 1894 and restored by John Lambourn over five years in Newlyn!
The MBLA will run its annual sardine BBQ feast throughout the day of the festival – get to eat what the local sardine boats caught the pervious night – fish doesn’t get any fresher!
Last year saw the first parade of trawlers at a Newlyn Fish Festival – and what a spectacle it was as the boats steamed around the harbour in a line and then out through the gaps and across the bay at speed!
Newlyn hosts the biggest and most diverse fleet of boats in the UK. The trawler parades give the skippers and crews a chance to show off their boats and boat handling skills as they make a procession around the harbour before setting out on a course that takes them out to the Low Lee buoy off Penlee Point before heading back towards Battery Rocks off Penzance’s Jubilee Pool and turning form home to parade right in front of the promenade and newlyn Green before finishing in the harbour. As ever with fishing, the weather, tide and fishing conditions directly affect who can take part!
After the successful introduction of the Trawler Parades last year local ship’s chandlers Newline and Ocean Safety have donated a fleet of four-man liferafts to hold the first ever (as far as we know) liferaft race in the UK! Anyone can enter – teams up to four people are needed to paddle the short, but demanding harbour course! The races (depending on the number of teams) will start – and end – in front of the Cornwall Ice Works.