'A massive success': Thousands turn out for historic festival in town
- Credit: Mick Howes
Iconic vessels descended on the east coast as thousands of people turned out to witness some truly historic scenes in a seaside town.
A fleet of historic sailing smacks and Old Gaffers hit the waters off Lowestoft on Saturday as The Excelsior Trust and Associated British Ports hosted an international Smack Race.
In decades gone by, a Smack Race would have traditionally been held annually in Lowestoft.
And that tradition made a welcome return for the first time in more than 20 years as the centenary smack race took centre stage at the weekend.
Marking the 100th anniversary of Lowestoft’s own 77ft sailing vessel Excelsior LT472 - an icon of the town’s national fishing heritage - the racing was held as part of delayed centenary celebrations, after the event had been postponed amid the continuing coronavirus crisis last year.
Saturday's stunning spectacle also showcased a successful Vessels Festival as "everything Lowestoft and everything seafaring" was celebrated.
Vessels from across the world captured the imagination as good crowds assembled to spectate and take photos, while many other onlookers turned out with binoculars to welcome the vessels early on Saturday morning.
- 1 One of the world's largest container ships anchors off coast
- 2 Mystery continues as owner of 'massive' snake yet to come forward
- 3 Thieves in white van flee with items left 'unattended' in alleyway
- 4 Three men arrested after 'unofficial Supermarket Sweep' in town centre
- 5 New fully vegan café to open in Lowestoft
- 6 Escaped snake 'under house arrest' after being reunited with owner
- 7 Go-ahead for kiosks to be unveiled in historic market area
- 8 Missing Ipswich teenager found, police confirm
- 9 Charity match boosts worthy cause after man's life-saving surgery
- 10 Ahoy me hearties! All smiles as popular playpark reopens
Spectators lined up at the bridge, close to the pier heads, at Heritage Quay and on South Pier as the traditional rigged sailing smacks and smaller vessels left for the racing between 7.45am and 9am.
The vessels headed to the race area off the north beach, around Corton, with crowds assembling at Gunton cliffs and along the north sea wall - between Lowestoft Ness and Tramps Alley - to catch a glimpse of those competing.
Racing began at around 9.30am, with the larger Smacks hitting the startline ahead of the smaller vessels that started racing from 10.15am.
With Great Yarmouth’s steam drifter Lydia Eva supporting the event, a number of smaller vessels - including Lowestoft Lifeboat - went out to support the racing.
As well as Excelsior LT472, among the 25 traditional vessels attending was the 78ft Boy Leslie from Norway - which worked out of Lowestoft between the wars - and the 68ft Swan LK 243 - a herring boat from Lerwick, The Shetlands.
Running from 9am to 5pm close to Heritage Quay on Lowestoft’s South Pier, the ‘Vessels Festival’ celebrated "Lowestoft's rich maritime heritage" with music, demonstrations, history, food, stalls and displays - including numerous local stallholders exhibiting their goods.
Among them was the IBTC - International Boatbuilding Training College - Lowestoft, who showcased traditional boatbuilding methods.
Gerry Skews, from Waveney Valley Smokehouse - Britain's most easterly smokehouse - was among the stallholders that "attracted a lot of interest" throughout the day.
With live music and race commentary updates on stage, performances from a range of acts were showcased - including the Pot of Gold shanty crew singing sea shanties.
After a successful's day's racing, numerous trophies were presented by ABP representatives and the Lord Lieutenant, Clare, Countess Euston - with former Lowestoft Lugger Gleaner LT 64 collecting The Excelsior Trust First Class Smack Trophy for the first large smack over the line.
The Excelsior also opened to the public to have a look around on Sunday on Heritage Quay.
With the event organisers pleased with the turnout, as good crowds attended throughout the day, a trust spokesman said: "It was a massive success.
"Around 5,000 people visited the shore-based Vessels Festival and watched the smacks leave the harbour, while many many more lined the Gunton clifftops to see the race out at sea.
"It was a brilliant day."
The organisers thanked all the sponsors, volunteers, stallholders, the public who assembled in great numbers and all the visiting vessels who turned out from far and wide.