Politicians, business leaders, and community members from across Torbay are celebrating after hearing the last surviving Brixham sailing trawler could soon be returning to her home town.
Following the news that 1923-built Torbay Lass is to receive crucial funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, figureheads from across the region have been welcoming the announcement.
Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston has described Torbay Lass as a ‘national treasure.’
She said: “What better use of Heritage Lottery funds than to save Torbay Lass?
“The importance of our wonderful maritime heritage deserves greater recognition, especially where projects such as this present in real opportunities for young people to get out on the water and experience that heritage in person not just observe it from a distance.
“Thank you to the team at Trinity Sailing for all their hard work towards saving this national treasure.”
The MP’s sentiments were shared by Torbay’s Mayor, Gordon Oliver, who is himself a member of the Torbay Lass steering committee.
He said: “We are extremely pleased to have helped with the project and to welcome her back to the bay.
“Torbay is steeped in maritime history and it is right that we look at how, as a community, we can help save this Brixham sailing trawler, which forms part of the National Historic Fleet.
“This boat is local living history and has a story to tell our residents and visitors of all ages.”
Brixham-based councillor Mike Morey, who heads the Torbay Council’s Non-Coalition Group, has called on people in the town to support the restoration project.
He said: “The return of the Torbay Lass completes another part of the jigsaw in the history of Brixham’s maritime heritage.
“We now need the community to get fully behind the venture to take it through to completion.”
Steve Parrock, Chief Executive of the Torbay Development Agency, who helped put the bid together, said: “This is good news and I am very pleased that that the TDA was able to assist in both the survey costs and the preparation of the funding application.
“We will continue to work in partnership to help to secure the future of this important historic vessel.”
Councillor Dave Butt, Torbay Council’s Executive Lead for Culture and the Arts said: “Speaking from a cultural perspective I am confident we will be organising some really innovative activities as we work towards achieving the match funding.
“To that end I intend to challenge our arts team to surprise us with their ideas.”
Brixham Harbour Master, Captain Paul Labistour said: “This is extremely good news that the project has achieved HLF stage one funding.
“The Harbour Authority will be working towards providing a safe berth for the return of the vessel during the next stage of her funding application and providing technical support where needed to the project management team.”
The steering group, headed by the Trinity Sailing Foundation, is seeking a £900,000 grant to restore and preserve the vessel.
As the first stage of the application to HLF has now been approved* — providing funds with which to carry out temporary repairs to the ailing vessel and draft the detailed application for the major grant — Torbay Lass will be able to return to Brixham harbour under her own power, and there await the final decision about her future.
It is hoped that, given favourable weather, this could take place in the coming weeks, but if necessary the move could be delayed until next year when the outcome of the major Lottery bid has been announced.
The second, more detailed, application needs to be submitted in February to fund the main restoration work. A final decision on her fate will be announced next June.
The steering group are now tasked with raising £371,000 in match funding that will be required to supplement the HLF main grant, if that is approved. The total cost of the project to save the vessel is estimated at £1.27 million.
The Trinity Sailing Foundation already owns and runs three of the surviving Brixham trawlers – Leader, Provident and Golden Vanity. It is a registered charity dedicated to the preservation of historic local vessels and providing sail training for young people and sailing opportunities for members of the general public with an interest in traditional craft.
Among those also supporting the project are: Brixham Town Council, the Chamber of Commerce, Torbay Development Agency, South Devon College, Tor Bay Harbour Authority, as well as prominent local people including former Pilot Captain Bob Curtis, shipwright Bob Cann and enthusiast Bill Wakeham.
Torbay Lass is one of 200 vessels that form the nation’s National Historic Fleet, vessels that include HMS Victory, Cutty Sark and SS Great Britain. Six of the vessels in the Fleet are former Brixham sailing trawlers, a testimony to their reputation as an iconic class of working vessel in the days of sail.
Five of the six have already been brought back to Torbay and restored. The aim is to complete the locally-built heritage fleet based in Brixham by restoring Torbay Lass in the harbour area, with the work open to the public. The work will take two years to complete.