'Truly historic' international Smack Race Festival to hit town waters

A scene from the Smack Race in the 1990s.

A scene from the Smack Race in the 1990s. - Credit: Courtesy of The Excelsior Trust

A fleet of historic sailing smacks will hit the waters off Lowestoft later this month as "a wonderful collection" of vessels descend on the east coast.

The red sails of traditionally rigged sailing smacks will illuminate the waters off Lowestoft as The Excelsior Trust hosts an international Smack Race on Saturday, July 30.

This one-off "truly historic event" - which is being staged after it was postponed amid the continuing coronavirus crisis last year - will feature vessels from across the world.

The popular Lowestoft-based sailing smack Excelsior LT472

The popular Lowestoft-based sailing smack Excelsior LT472. - Credit: Mick Howes

Organisers The Excelsior Trust are expecting up to 25 traditional vessels to attend for an event being staged to celebrate the centenary of the town's 77ft sailing vessel Excelsior LT472 - an icon of Lowestoft’s national fishing heritage.

Vessels will include the 78ft Boy Leslie from Norway and the 68ft Swan from The Faroe Islands.

With the Smack Race beginning around 9am, vessels will leave the harbour in stages before heading out to sea for the main race.

A poster for the Smack Race.

A poster for the Smack Race. - Credit: Courtesy of The Excelsior Trust

A trust spokesman said: "This will be a major spectacle and Excelsior Trust is delighted that so many other historic vessels are joining in with our delayed centenary celebrations."

Most Read

Back on Lowestoft’s South Pier, there will be a ‘Vessels Festival’ taking place with stalls, music and displays reflecting the now vibrant maritime, business and arts scene in Lowestoft.

With Lydia Eva supporting the event, the Vessels Festival - taking place close to Heritage Quay - will see more than 16 local stallholders exhibiting their goods.

The spokesman added: "Traditionally a Smack Race would have been held annually in Lowestoft in the late 1800s when Lowestoft was a fishing boom town.

"But due to the decline in fishing and the increasing rarity of these historic vessels, the last event of this kind was held over 20 years ago.

"As there are different types of sailing smacks taking part this year, the boats will be put into different racing classes, to ensure opportunities are fair for all."

Excelsior Trust founder John Wylson said: “This will be a remarkable and truly historic event, which could be one of the last of its kind.

"Sadly each year the number of old wooden fishing smacks, fully restored and maintained to be seaworthy, diminishes.

"So let’s enjoy this wonderful collection of heritage vessels whilst we can.”