MUCH has happened since 1989 in everyones lives and the Cornish Lugger Association family is no exception.

The Association was forced to abandon plans for a 2021 reunion of these old wooden-built working fishing boats because of the Coronavirus pandemic and although it had been hoped to resume activities in 2022, a clash of dates with Mouseholes Sea Saltsfestival in West Cornwall led to a decision to go back to the traditional odd yearsformat.

Sadly, men, women and boats have all been affected by the ravages of age and ill-health since the 30th anniversary regatta of the luggers in Looe Bay four years ago.

People like Happy Return skipper Peter May (Mounts Bay) and Guiding Stars former owner-skipper Barry Jobson (Bristol) have sailed to the heavenly oceans as has former Penzance publican and lugger man Les Rowe (whose brother, Jeff, better known, as comedian Jethro, was among the Covid victims) and one-time proud keeper of the I.R.I.S Andy Skentelbery (ex-Polperro).

The French, so often passionate supporters of the Cornish regattas, are mourning losses, too; most recently Le Grand-Léjons musician and crewman Alexandre Chabrier. And the organisers of the Regatta have not been immune to the cycle of life either.

That familiar and lovable character Lionel (Leo) Bowdler, for so many years a stalwart of both onthewater and shoreside activities of the luggersbiennial get-togethers in Looe Bay, has since died and will be missing when his son, Brian, fires the starting gun as race officer for the first parade of sail in May.

Setting Sail, Once More, After 4 Years

Many more will be mourned, too. But life for the lugger community has to go on. And, after an hiatus of four years, caused primarily by the Covid pandemic, there are changes everywhere you look.

Founding chairman Paul Greenwood, universally regarded as the father of the fleet, decided to retire after the last 30th anniversary regatta of the luggers I will be 72 by next time, he said back then, not knowing next timewould, in fact, require 74 candles on his cake and his plea for some younger folk to join the committee is probably one of the reasons why co-founder Mike Darlington, now in his 80s, also originally decided to step down as vice-chairman.

His change of heart, possibly influenced by new committee members David and Sam Darlington (son and grandson respectively) will be warmly welcomed for the experience he brings to the bridge.

Looe, The Spiritual Home of the Luggers

The port of Looe in South East Cornwall remains the spiritual home of these now redundant fishing boats with their wonderful lugrig or sails that give them their distinctive name. Many of the boats have been on the water for in excess of 100 years since being launched from the quayside at Looe but Cornish Luggers can be found anywhere in the world where the smell of salt water is not far away.

New chairman of the Lugger Association is Jeff Penhaligon, well-known Cornwall and Isles of Scilly harbourmaster, whose last posting was at Looe. Born in Truro, Jeffs seagoing career started in the Royal Navy in 1967, where he spent most of the time in conventional class submarines, before retiring in 1993.

He then worked at Falmouth Boat Construction, refitting RNLI Lifeboats and operating them on sea trials before spending ten years as harbourmaster at St Marys on the Isles of Scilly before returning to Looe to take up the post of harbourmaster in 2005, where he succeeded former lugger fisherman Teddy Webb.

Jeff knows only too well what big seaboots he has to fill but, with the loss of the Looe Fish Market as the shorebased centre of regatta entertainment, he has been thrown a blank sheet of paper on which to draw the 2023 agenda for the May 19-21 regatta, now just months away.

New Shore-Side Operations Centre

With the continued co-operation of harbourmaster Tina Hicks, and Looe Harbour Commissioners, who have actively supported and encouraged the regatta since the first one back in 1989, the shore-side centre of operations will now be at the Quayside Centre on West Looe Quay, known locally as Mallys Shed, after the late former Looe fisherman and Harbour Commissioner, Mally Toms,who guided its development.

The new venue, which will be more accessible to the visiting boats and crews, will host three nights of live music for the competitors, including a bumper Saturday dance which will be open to all members of the public.

There will also be a crewsreception there, as well as the prizegiving at the end of the weekend regatta.

Everyone Is Ready To Welcome The Fleet

The town itself is delighted that the fleet of old fishing boats is returning to the port and past stalwart supporters like West Looe Town Trust, Looe Town Council and Looe Sailing Club remain in the background eager to make the weekend successful.

Entries on the water are expected to be as high as in previous editions of this popular event and may even include some newer boats from neighbouring ports.

Further Information

For any traditional wooden working boats interested in attending the regatta should register (without obligation) by Email 

Members of the public can keep up to dates via this page and also the Facebook page for Looe Lugger Regatta

Looe Lugger Regatta

The Quay
West Looe
PL13 1DT