One of the last remaining Brixham sailing trawlers has secured its immediate future following the awarding of a £820,000 grant, reports Paul Scott

Built in 1926, Vigilance BM 76 was awarded the grant by the Cultural Assets Fund (CAF), which is administered by the National Heritage Memorial Fund. The grant will finance vital ‘below the water’ repairs.

The vessel, owned and operated by Friends of Vigilance, a charitable incorporated organisation run entirely by local volunteers, will go into dry dock in Plymouth this month. The initial phase of repairs involves the replacement of the hull and supporting beams. The work is expected to last 20 months.

Vigilance under sail passes London Bridge rock off Torquay.

Nigel Gooding, finance director of Friends of Vigilance, said: “This is great news. We are extremely grateful for this award from the National Heritage Memorial Fund for recognising the national importance of Vigilance.

The grant is urgently needed to carry out essential maintenance and it will, quite literally, save this historic ship from disaster.” The grant will cover phase one of the repair work, with funds released as each stage is completed. “The stage-by-stage funding will allow an extensive inspection and repairs below the waterline. It will ensure the boat’s backbone and structure will provide a good foundation to complete further repairs to the deck and superstructure,” said Nigel Gooding.

Last month, the vessel was awarded a grant of £2,000 by the Royal Warrant Holders Association. Established to support the charitable activities of Royal Warrant holders, the fund donates up to £2,000 to small local charities in which Warrantholding companies or their employees are actively involved.

“Our fight to keep Vigilance in Brixham has received a major boost, but big obstacles and more fundraising lie ahead. I see this as a reward for our hard work, but we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Onwards and upwards,” Nigel Gooding said.

From left: Vigilance mate Tony Bridle, crew Caroline Griffiths and finance director Nigel Gooding celebrate the award of the £820,000 grant. (Photos: Trevor Taylor)

The National Heritage Memorial Fund is administering the CAF funding as part of its £40mn UK-wide Covid Response Fund, which aims to safeguard nationally important heritage that is at increased risk due to the pandemic.

Dr Simon Thurley CBE, chair of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said: “The National Heritage Memorial Fund has a long history of supporting nationally important maritime heritage, so we are delighted that funding from the Cultural Assets Fund will enable a vital step forward for protecting the future of Vigilance.

“This funding will not only ensure the historic vessel can celebrate its centenary in 2026, but will also keep its stories and heritage alive for future generations.”

Brixham councillor Vic Ellery, a member of the Torbay Harbour Authority, said that the grant will ‘ensure that generations of children in Brixham will learn the fishing heritage of the town’.

“This is the start of an exciting era in historic sailing excursions, which can only enhance the formidable reputation this vessel enjoys,” he said.

The 78ft Vigilance is the last of the big trawlers built at Upham’s Shipyard in Brixham. With an 82ft main mast, its full suit of sails can drive it along at a speed of 12 knots.

“This grant is a lifesaver – it’s a real turning point,” said Nigel Gooding.

“It will now allow us to plan for the immediate future, and means Vigilance’s red sails will be seen in Tor Bay for years to come.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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