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Noble Marine 2022 SW - LEADERBOARD

Made in Looe Reunion Weekend announced

by John Collings 9 Feb 15:36 UTC 14-16 June 2024
Made in Looe Reunion Weekend - May Queen © Made in Looe

Storms have battered the South East Cornwall holiday and tourism haunts this winter, keeping fishing fleets stranded in harbours for days on end.

Historians often disagree over the exact year a fishing industry was established in the picturesque twin resort of Looe but it's fair to say that since the 16th Century granting of a Royal Charter to the old boroughs, fishermen have been venturing out to sea on the daily morning high tide and returning just in time to catch the evening currents back to safe harbour.

But when the Met Office's Agnes, Ciarán and Isha and their many friends come out to play the fleet has had to remain securely moored to the harbour walls. Looking around the quaysides it might appear as if everything has stopped. It hasn't, of course.

But skippers and their crew are not lounging around, binge-watching the latest Netflix series or browsing holiday brochures. No, there is routine maintenance to attend to, and an ever-growing tidal wave of paperwork.

It's been a similar winter's tale for the organisers of the fledgling Made-in-Looe reunion event, which over the June 14-16 weekend will shine a light on the town's historic boatbuilding legacy.

It might not look as if much is happening but below decks the preparation and planning continues apace.

The event is being organised by the Looe-based Cornish Lugger Association which, since 1989, has been staging biennial regattas for wooden, sail-powered fishing luggers (their name comes from their rather unusual sailing rig), many of them now more than 100 years old.

The Association is working in conjunction with Looe Sailing Club, who are no strangers to staging national and dinghy sailing championships (achievements for which they have been shortlisted as National Club of the Year by the Royal Yachting Association); Looe Rowing Club and the Looe Boat Owners Association,.

In addition the Looe Harbour Commissioners, custodians of the tidal port, are waiving mooring dues for the duration of a weekend which will also feature live music on three nights and a fun-filled raft race on the final day, organised by the Boatowners' Association.

Said regatta chairman Jeff Penhaligon, a former submariner and Cornwall and Isles of Scilly harbourmaster: "We have enjoyed such a great boatbuilding tradition in this town over the years that we felt the time was long overdue that it was recognised and celebrated with an event of its own."

The search is now on for those with boats 'Made-in-Looe' who could make the reunion a reality. Already one owner from the Solent has expressed a desire to return his vessel to her birth port and plenty more in the immediate vicinity of Looe have said that they want to come home, too.

From the early 20th Century builders like the Angear, Pengelly and the Ferris families, Looe's maritime mark continued on to the Pearn brothers, Norman and Gerald, and through to Arthur Collings, Ray Dann, Clifford Adams, Brian Porter, Mick Marshall, Robert Newton and Andy Skentelbery among many others.

More recently father-and-son Jim and David Currah's hand-built wooden Cornish Pilot Gigs have filled eight of the top ten positions at the World Pilot Gig Rowing championships on the Isles of Scilly.

But perhaps the best known of all the many master craftsmen from Looe was naval architect Alan Pape, whose designs and builds can still be found in many of the marinas in this country and even farther afield.

Mr Pape, who died aged 83 in October 2004, had joined the Curtis and Mitchell team when the 'yard moved upstream from the Canning Factory at Millpool, West Looe, to West Quarries, from where a new Curtis and Pape operation was soon building more than 1,000 boats for the War Department, including boom defence vessels, minesweepers and steel and wood barges.

After the 1939-45 conflict Mr Pape continued to be responsible for vessels of all shapes and sizes, among the better known ones being Sir Chay Blyth's 65-ft racing trimaran Brittany Ferries GB, designed by John Shuttleworth.

Launched in 1981, she was floated down river on the early morning tide before being craned over the picturesque arched bridge that links the east and west Looe communities.

Sadly, the race-winning trimaran is long gone but many other vessels from the same 'yard could return to Looe this summer.

These include Bob Shillito's Swift, a 1962-built Chesford Yacht and Launch Co boat, designed by Alan Pape, that is nearby on the River Fowey.

"Although Chesford was based in Kingsbridge, Devon, I understand that many of the boats were actually built in Looe," said Bob. "I was astonished when an elderly guy came up to me in Fowey the other week and asked about the boat, which he had recognised.

"It turned out that he was an apprentice boatbuilder in Looe in the '60s and may have actually worked on Swift."

Bob also said that he had removed the 'hopeless' Stuart Turner engine a few years ago and replaced it with an electric inboard, powered by solar panels. "A blend of the traditional with the future," he said.

Another Fowey visitor could be the Guide, a 22-ft motor launch believed to be built in Looe by Richard Pearce around 1916, whose owner is keen to discover more about her.

Tim Newcombe's Millbrook-based May Queen, now the UK's oldest shark angling boat, having been built on East Looe Quay by Arthur Collings in 1936, is another planning to be at the weekend.

For variation, Mark Haynes' speedboat, Superstar, was built by Gerald Pearn at Morval, near Looe, in June 1972; Cecil du Valle's Composer is a 1978 Seadrift by Norman Pearn; Gill Vivian has Freddy, an 18-ft clinker-built Clifford Adams 1954 boat, now in Fowey; Jack Styche's Joelle B is another Adams boat from the 1980s, and Paul Steeper's Redwing, Songbird, is one of many Adams-built sailing dinghies likely to be present.

The oldest boat could be Andrew Rowe's Muriel (ex-Winnie), a 25-ft Falmouth Quay Punt built by Peter Ferris between 1890 and 1900, while Paul Eedle's Guiding Star is a 39-ft Cornish Lugger, built by James Angear in 1907.

Meanwhile, the regatta weekend also plans to feature musical entertainment, food stalls and demonstrations, all based around the Quayside Centre on West Looe Quay, known locally as 'Mally's Shed' after the late Looe Harbour Commissioner, Mally Toms, who instigated the project.

Said Lugger Association vice-chairman David Darlington, himself a Looe boatbuilder: "We are going to entertain our visiting boat skippers and their families, as well as local residents, with three full days of entertainment at Mally's Shed, where a variety of non-stop music will play from about 3.30 pm each day to 10.30 pm."

Refreshment outlets will be on hand and Looe Sailing Club members are providing the licensed bar.

Anyone with a Looe-built vessel can register their interest (without obligation) by emailing details of their vessels to Paul Pengelly at: office4luggers@btinternet.com. They will then be kept informed of full details as the regatta plans are firmed up in the months ahead.

Meanwhile the next biennial regatta of the Cornish Luggers will be held in Looe Bay in the summer of 2025.

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