Summer heatwave for UK’s biggest trawler race in Brixham.

A rare but very welcome heatwave conveniently descended on Devon in time for Saturday’s 55th annual Brixham Trawler Race, traditionally held on the third Saturday in June, reports Martin Johns.

Above: Margaret of Ladram leads a pack of beamers against a distant backdrop of the East Devon Jurassic coast.

ixteen of Brixham’s beamer fleet, by some distance the biggest fleet of beam trawlers in the UK, were joined by two visiting boats to take part in an eight-mile lap of Torbay in glorious sunshine and flat calm seas, the best weather seen on race day for many years.

The 42m Dutch beamer, Arendjan GO 26 had steamed for around 30 hours from Goedereede in the Netherlands, to take part in the race and the freshly painted Stephanie M 177 travelled around from Milford Haven, with both boats arriving on Friday.

The race began at 11:30am when the first of the smaller day boats and crabbers crossed the start line off Battery Gardens just outside Brixham harbour, and followed the course around the coast of Torbay, passed Goodrington, Paignton and Torquay, before turning south near Thatcher Rock to head back towards Berry Head and the finish line off Brixham.

First to start the race was the tiny 5.6m crabber Netty, followed by the under-10m day boat trawlers L’Aventurier, Dee J and Resolute. The last of the smaller boats to start were the 15m scalloper Gerry Ann C and the fast Cheetah catamaran crabber Mowzer.

The first group of five beamers starting at midday were Kerrie Marie, Sara Lena, Carhelmar, Amber J and Stephanie, followed a minute later by Angel of Ladram, Ann Marie and Lady Maureen. Others started at regular intervals on the firing of a starting gun situated in nearby Battery Gardens, until the powerful visiting Dutch beamer Arendjan crossed the start line 11 minutes after the first boat.

A carefully calculated handicapping system, based on declared speeds, has the aim of ensuring that the slower boats – such as the 221kW Euro-cutter class of boats – have been caught up by faster, more powerful, ones approaching the end of the race creating the spectacle of the fleet of beamers powering towards Brixham breakwater at full speed – a thrilling finale, both for those aboard the boats and those viewing from the shore.

The movements of such large boats, both at the start and end of the race, are organised with military precision by the skippers, harbour master, trawler race committee and the MCA prior to race day. Every boat has a berthing position allocated for when they return to the harbour after the race, to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.

Once safely moored up, the on-board parties and discos, which many consider the real event of the day, can begin. Loud music, sometimes emanating from professional DJs or live bands and the smell of barbecued food fill the air, and the harbour-side comes alive from early afternoon to late in the night, a far cry from its usual function as a busy fishing port and fish market.

During the event, the Brixham Trawler Race committee raises money through gate entry fees, the sale of programmes, sponsorship, raffles and collections aboard the boats, as well as other fund-raising events.
The 2016 race raised a record £24,000, an incredible amount, which was distributed among local Brixham charities.

The race is sponsored and supported by many fishing industry-related firms with fuel supplier, OJ Williams being this year’s major sponsor. Others included Ijmuiden Stores, Tec Marine, Merc UK, Globe Marine, John Reid Scallop gear, Hubbard Engineering, Van Laar, Deeside Marine and Brixham Trawl Makers.

Once again, Pam Evans, Brixham Trawler Race chairman and her dedicated committee of volunteers are to be congratulated for organising a superb event in the Devon town, the scale and spectacle of which is unique in fishing ports around the UK.

After the prize-giving ceremony, Pam Evans gave special words of thanks to Brixham Fisherman’s Mission superintendent John Anderson, on behalf of all at the port.

Not only for awarding the prizes on the day but also as John is soon to retire after eight years of loyal service as the Brixham-based Mission Area officer, and will be greatly missed by all those concerned with the port.

Brixham Trawler Race results – 2017

Overall race winner
Barentszee – Sk. Sean Gibbs – Maaskant Bell

1st Barentszee – Sk. Sean Gibbs – Colonel’s Cup
2nd Chloe Olivia – Sk. Pete Boyce – Prince of Wales Cup
3rd Lady Lou – Sk. Paul De Groote – Cummins Cup

1st Danielle – Sk. Peter McLeod Castrol Plate
2nd Van Dijck – Sk. Drew McLeod – Cunningham Small Cup
3rd Ann Marie – Sk. Alan Scales – Mitsubishi Trophy

Day Boats
1st Gerry Ann C Sk. Shaun Sturtridge Teignbridge Propellers Trophy
2nd Harvester Sk. Brian Snell Harp Lager Trophy
Joint 3rd L’Aventurier Sk. Julian Kimble Van Voorden Challenge Cup Dee J Sk. Paul Bird

Joint 1st

Netty – Sk. Dennis Kimble – Watermota Cup
Mowzer – Sk. Andy Ricks – Paul Goddard Memorial Cup

Other prizes
Smartest Start Danielle – Smartest Start trophy
Best Finish Sam of Ladram – Castrol Plate
Best Dressed Beamer Ann Marie – Conoco Best Dressed
Best Dressed Day Boat Resolute – Baudouin Trophy
Highest Value Catch Margaret of Ladram – Cunningham Best Catch
Most Entries Dennis Kimble – Gardner Cup
Oldest Working Fisherman Dennis Kimble – Jack Rose Cup