A fleet of iconic vessels were in Lowestoft for the International Smack Race and Vessels Festival, reports Paul Scott.

The former Lowestoft lugger Gleaner LT 64 was the first large smack over the line.

The race and festival, hosted by the Excelsior Trust and Associated British Ports (ABP), attracted more than 5,000 visitors to the harbour, with many more lining local clifftops to watch the race progress out at sea.

The celebration also marked the 100th anniversary of the Lowestoft vessel Excelsior LT 472, one of the town’s last surviving fishing smacks.

Around 25 vessels took part in the race alongside the Excelsior, including the 78ft Boy Leslie, once of Brixham and Plymouth, but now based in Norway, which worked out of Lowestoft between the wars. Shetland’s restored herring Fifie Swan LK 243 also featured.

The winner of the sponsor’s trophy, awarded for the first Old Gaffer Association vessel over the line, was the 1911 Dandy- rigged Zulu Rely. The prize was presented by Kate Moran, ABP Lowestoft operations co-ordinator.

“Seeing these historic vessels adorn the waters of Lowestoft was a truly unforgettable experience,” she said. “So many of our ABP colleagues were involved in the organisation of the event, from our marina team to marine and operations.

“It is fantastic to see it become such a success and spread awareness of our important maritime heritage.”

The crew of the Excelsior hard at work.

Other winners included the 1874-built former Lowestoft lugger Gleaner LT 64, which collected the Excelsior Trust First Class Smack Trophy for being the first large smack over the line.

In the category for toshers, a small decked sailing fishing vessel, the 1889-built former Colchester smack Transcur CK 365, took the top prize.

The Vessels Festival celebrates Lowestoft’s rich maritime heritage, and featured music, demonstrations, history, food, stalls and displays. The day after the race, and as part of the celebrations, the Excelsior LT 472 was opened to the public.

John Wylson of the Excelsior Trust said: “Modern Lowestoft exists because of fishing, and the greatest period of expansion was driven by vessels like Excelsior.

“As one of the last of the famous Lowestoft smacks to
be built, she is today a living link with the town’s great entrepreneurial past. The Excelsior also provides young people with the opportunity to get to know and appreciate the sea, which is important because it takes up 200 degrees of Lowestoft’s hinterland.

“The pandemic prevented us celebrating Excelsior’s centenary last year, so we are particularly grateful for the support of the historic vessels that have come out of ‘Covid sleep’ to take part, and to ABP, without whom we would not have been able to put on this special event.”

Other sponsors included Lowestoft Town Council, East Suffolk Council, Suffolk Coast and the RN&S Yacht Club.

Main image: The Swan LK 243 and Boy Leslie LO 392 competing in the International Smack Race. (Credit: Peter Benson for The Excelsior Trust)

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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