|Wed 24-05-2023, 10:00St Mawes, Cornwall||Mon 29-05-2023, 10:00St Mawes, Cornwall||Tallulah||5 Nights||TH240623|
The Pilot Cutter Review is one of Cornwall’s best kept secrets. An annual gathering of pilot cutters that is a privilege to witness, but even more memorable to take part in.
Whilst Classic Sailing have been the organisers since 2008, this coming together of the clan has its own momentum. These beautiful vessels steal all the attention as they sail out the narrow harbour entrances of Fowey and St Mawes. As pilot cutters romp down the coast or race around Falmouth Harbour it looks fun to be crew…and it is.
Join Tallulah at her first ever appearance at this mix of not too serious racing, parades of sail and small scale social events.
max 6 guests with Skipper and mate who both like cooking. Solo travellers welcome, but we also have a lovely double bed cabin for couples.
This is a great voyages for those who already love sailing these classic boats to their full potential, but is racing fun for novices?
Yes, absolutely, if you are prepared to lap up instruction and get stuck in, physically. This is the most action packed sailing voyage of the season, whether you have sailed a gaff cutter before or not.
Yes, it is an adrenalin buzz sailing in close quarters with other powerful pilot cutters, but there is also a lot of relaxed sailing with plenty of searoom where you can admire the other boats and coastal scenery. On Tallulah our skippers spend every week of the year sailing with a different bunch of complete novices or sailors who have never been on a traditional boat before, so we are explainers rather than shouters.
An annual gathering of pilot cutters is something Classic Sailing has organised since 2008. This will be the first time 44ft Tallulah has taken part in this mix of racing, parades of sail and small scale social events ashore but her skipper Debbie has been involved in this celebration of these powerful craft from the very beginning. A Pilot Cutter Review is the historic name for a summer ‘showing off’ of pilot cutters. A time for working boats to dig out their racing sails and prove their pedigree for fast sailing. Help us create scenes from a bye-gone era, at a lovely time of year when Cornish ports are relatively empty of modern yachts.
I skippered 38ft pilot cutter ‘Eve of St Mawes’ at the first Pilot Cutter Review with legendary boats attending like Jolie Brise. It was an event that Adam Purser and I created from scratch, helped by many other contributors that could see the concept fitted our home port of St Mawes perfectly. Eve was always the baby of the fleet and I am thrilled to be back with her bigger sister Tallulah in 2022. Her boat builder Luke Powell considers her the fastest pilot cutter he has built but this will be the first time she has come to the event. She is now very much an adventure charter boat and we aim to have fun with as many new sailors as possible this season. Launching Tallulah into the Pilot Cutter Fleet is just the icing on the cake.
Yes there is always plenty of racing at the Pilot Cutter Review each year, but for me the backdrop is everything. It’s about creating evocative scenes out on the water and in the quaint Cornish ports. A floating museum of original pilot cutters and authentic replicas arrives at host ports and the public can go sailing on them and immerse themselves from this year was their timeless quality. The beauty the harbours we grace for our crew parties is that they all have deep significance for our maritime heritage. Charlestown is so unchanged as a working port it is used regularly for film sets like Poldark. Fowey grew rich on merchant sailing vessels and privateering and St Mawes and Falmouth would have pilot cutters at anchor all year round, waiting to rush out like greyhounds to offer their pilot services to the tall ships.
Original pilot cutters that regularly attend include Marguerite, Olga, Mascotte, Jolie Brise, Peggy and sometimes Cornubia or Jolie Brise. You can understand why they were so regarded as seaworthy working vessels that had the grace to capture the publics hearts when they spread their sails and raced out to sea to meet ships.
There are also many replicas who race as stylishly as the originals. These traditionally built, wooden beauties really showcase the revivial of wooden boat building in Cornwall in particular, but also Bristol and Tomi Neilson’s in Gloucester.
Luke Powell of Working Sail has built 9 pilot cutters who have nearly all taken part in our Pilot Cutter Review. In fact Luke made wooden trophy half model for the event. Likely to be attending in 2022 Eve of St Mawes, Amelie Rose and Tallulah.
Cornish wooden boatbuilding was also represented well by pilot cutters built by Cockwell’s Modern & Classic Boatbuilding Ltd, and the Bristol boat yards have added great boats like Pegasus, Merlin and Edith Grey.
We never quite know how big the attending fleet will be but 2021 was remarkable, despite the pandemic.
Join Tallulah in the morning on Wed 1st June in St Mawes for a safety briefing and a quick departure to sail east to join the fleet in Charlestown Harbour. Opportunities to lock in to this small harbour are rare so we need to reach there for the evening high tide. The skipper and mate will teach and we some sailing skills on route along the unspoilt Roseland Coast, round the Dodman and into Mevagissey Bay.
The private harbour of Charlestown provides the first location for the pilot cutters to get together. This is home to 1908 Pilot cutter Mascotte and classic Sailing works closely with Mascotte and other charter boats based her, so it is only fitting that they add another dimension to the event. The public will be able to see us up close as we swing in through the narrow entrance and inner lock gates. This natural amphitheatre has rum bars and resturants all around. If you think the cobbled quayside looks familiar it is because it has featured in my films and period dramas – Onedin line, Taboo, Poldark to name a few. Free entertainment is promised. More details later.
If the weather makes the venue difficult then Fowey is just across the bay.
Lock gates can only be opened to the sea at HW so its a 7am start for all boats on Thursday. holiday. There will be an offshore race to Eddystone for those who want to participate ( or alternatively it might be a race east to Looe and back) with plenty of room to get the hang of racing these powerful deep keeled craft. If guests prefer to cruise an explore the coast instead there are some lovely beaches to anchor off like Polkerris or Lantic Bay.
Towards evening sail triumphantly into Fowey between the high cliffs. Whatever your race position, Fowey welcomes sailing ships with party lights and shelter.
The Gallants Sailing Club is usually our host, with a bar, showers and a long tradition of seeking prizes. Even if there are covid restrictions the sailing club has an outside terrace and a covered yard with waterside views.
Not all crews are charter guests so food ashore to buy is provided at most evening venues. Tallulah staff will decide whether to cook on board or go for the food provided ashore.
The Passage Race from Fowey to St Mawes is a great spectacle for tourists in Fowey and Polruan as they see the pilot cutters set sail within this deep weather harbour. Departure is usually 10am but we have to liase with the port authorities to give us the best time to miss any shipping and be able to sail out the entrance.
The route along the coast has many interesting features to add to the passage making strategy. Gribben Head, Gwineas Rocks, the strange winds and tides of the Dodman and the final corner around St Antony Lighthouse and into the finish in St Mawes Bay.
Some crews race hard, others just enjoy the passage and the marine wildlife and seabirds on route.
The Pilot Cutters anchor in St Mawes Bay but Tallulah has a big rowing boat with gig boat sweeps, so it is fun to visit the other crews.
Ashore we meet up on the sun terrace of the Bohella Bar for a ’round the cans race briefing’ and paella cooked on the giant BBQ or similar hearty food.
Open to the South West, St Mawes Bay provides a clear view of the Manacles and down towards the Lizard. Gaining a head start on the Falmouth based pilot cutters, several large pilot cutters were based in the village, and its boatyards were famous for building fast pilot gigs. Classic Sailing created the pilot cutter review event to celebrate the local pilot trade connection, and the local community gets a great thrill from hosting the ‘big’ pilot cutter racing as an extra annual event to complement its Falmouth Working Boat ‘World Championships and various gig boat events.
St Mawes Bay is less than half a mile wide and with hills all around makes a perfect amphitheatre for visitors and locals to watch the start and finish of each race.
St Mawes Sailing Club have been designing suitable race courses for the big pilot cutters since 2008. They understand it is part spectacle and partly competitive racing, but they understand that these boats like a good romp without miles of beating to windward. Aiming for 2 races in St Mawes Harbour and Carrick Roads
On Saturday evening it is tradition for the boats to sail up the River Fal to large mid river pontoons where all boats can raft up and socialise. Usually each vessel offers some sort of BBQ on deck or al fresco meal. The setting is surrounded by oak woodlands and rural landscapes.
1 or 2 races St Mawes Harbour and Carrick Roads
The voyage officially ends on Monday morning to give guests a good rest before travelling. If you wish to get off on Sunday night after the prize giving (typically about 1800hrs), or after a final crew meal in the pub (or on Tallulah) then that is also possible.
Tallulah is run by Debbie Purser. She founded Classic Sailing with Adam in 1997 and our ethos has always been to sail as much as possible, row sexy rowing boats rather than use noisy outboards, and generally enhance the Cornish coastline with our boats presence. For 23 years we ran themed voyages and short breaks on our little blue pilot cutter Eve of St Mawes. Debbie bought Tallulah in 2021 and this big, elegant cutter brings up right upto date with our mission to cut our guests carbon footprint by exploring in the UK and sailing as much as possible. If you are based in the UK then we aim to give you a staycation as memorable as any trip abroad. If you are coming to Cornwall from outside the UK, then thank you for coming. The traditional sailing community are not isolationists.
On a sailing voyage we never use the word itinerary, as skippers will always be aiming for the best sailing and shore landings for the forecast and most idyllic or sheltered anchors and ports. With an event like the pilot cutter review we try to run to programme but the weather is always the boss. The description above is based on what we think might be possible, based on past trips, or experience, but nothing is guaranteed on a sailing voyage. Racing has to be safe for the level of the crew abilities before we will participate.
Tallulah has a mooring across St Mawes Bay – so your first challenge is to meet Debbie on the Quay and row yourselves and bags out to your floating holiday base.
After finding out a bit about each other and individual hopes for the voyage, the skipper and mate will introduce you life on a boat and how you sail Tallulah safety. The training is on going through the few days and the more guests participate, the easier it is for Tallulah to show you the best of gaff cutter sailing.
Some things on Tallulah are quite physical. Some things are easy peasy. She a has roller furling jib, but you need two halliards to hoist the mainsail (like all gaff sails). The barrel windlass is very manual and ancient in concept. There are loads of places to sit. There are high sides to the deck and there will be guard rails so walking on deck in rough weather feels very secure.
Meals are often taken on deck, but the saloon is also characterful with a big oak table and skylights above. Mindful of coronavirus still being around, we generally have all hatches open when stationary, so Tallulah has a well ventilated restaurant and al fresco options to take your meal on deck if you prefer.
Sailing instruction is informal, but the crew have wide interests so can answer most maritime questions from navigation to boat building. Never be afraid to ask to have a go at something.
Whether you are an experienced sailor or a complete beginner, the professional crew will train you to be guest crew from the moment you arrive, with the intention that everybody works together to sail the ship. The common thread to all Classic Sailing holidays is ‘Hands on’ participation on ships that use ropes, blocks and tackles and ‘people power’ to set sail.
We cater for a wide range of ages and physical abilities, and how much you are expected to do varies a bit between vessels. See the vessel tab above which explains all about the ‘sailing style’ and what to expect in terms of hands on participation. There is a lot of information about day to day life, the ships facilities and accommodation on the vessel pages.
Every customer sailing with us will need to fill in basic medical questions on their booking application. If you are not sure if your current level of fitness and agility are up to a voyage, then please ring the Classic Sailing Office and we can chat through your concerns and possibly find options that might suit you better.
This is the home port of Classic Sailing. A seafaring village on the East side of Falmouth Harbour.
The historic Quay in St Mawes Harbour (TR2 5DW) is the official rendezvous for all Outdoor Girl Voyages. Plan your travel for the quay in your first instance.
Our alternative meeting point in St Mawes is Freshwater Boatyard, Freshwater Lane (TR2 5AR). Outdoor Girl has a beach mooring on the shore to the left of the main slipway at this tiny boatyard on the Percuil River, which is best for some combinations of wind and tide.
This is still within the village and only about 10 minutes walk from the village quay and main (pay & display) car park. There is sometimes free street parking in this area in Buckeys Lane, Pedn Moran or Freshwater Lane itself. As with all street parking please make sure there is room for fire engines to get through and no drives are blocked.
Do not drive down the steep driveway into Freshwater Boatyard. It is a small working area and no room to turn. and no parking.
For some voyages we may pre position Outdoor Girl in a new exploration area within the Falmouth and Helford Estuary network to make better use of the winds and tides and sheltered water. Debbie will contact you at least 48hrs before the voyage with final joining instructions by email and text. All confirmed customers will be sent Debbies mobile number for emegencies or late arrival.
The A30 is the best route into Cornwall for St Mawes – if you follow a Sat Nav you will probably be taken via King Harry Car Ferry which is not the quickest route but is worth doing for the experience.
The best way is to leave the A30 at Fraddon and follow the B3275 until it meets the A390 where you turn left for a little way back towards St Austell. Then follow the signs to the right for the A3078 which ends in St Mawes.
There are two car parks in St Mawes both trouble free and you can pay by card
St Mawes Quay Car Park is very convenient as it is where you join your voyage but is a little more expensive.
St Mawes Central Car Park run by the St Just in Roseland Parish Council is recommended. It is just a minute walk from the Quay.
You can pay for a number of days with a debit card
To get to St Mawes by train, buy a ticket for Falmouth Town Station and come accross Falmouth Harbour by passenger ferry..Falmouth is on a branch line from Truro which is on the main London – Penzance rail line. Trains come into Cornwall to Truro from many parts of the UK and it is only 30 minutes down the brach line to Falmouth but beware there are several small stations in Falmouth. Get off at Falmouth Town Station..
Falmouth Town Station (the Dell) is ten minutes walk from Customs House Quay where one of three ferries runs to St Mawes in the summer. In the winter it is about another 15 minutes walk to the Prince of Wales Pier.
Ferry is the best way. St Mawes Passnger Ferry timetable for both piers https://www.falriver.co.uk/ferries/st-mawes-ferry/timetable. This has a live update to confirm which ferrys are running on the day. It only stops in really bad weather.
St Mawes Ferry 01872 861 911 or 07855 438 674
Ferries are hourly in winter and three per hour in the summer and the journey is 20-25 minutes.
There are buses from Truro to St Mawes but they are very infrequent and take about an hour.
Newquay is the nearest airport but it is poorly served by public transport. A taxi to St Mawes can cost over £60
Classic Sailing recommend Treesisters charity as a carbon offsetting scheme and we have our own Classic Sailing Forest you can add tree planting to. These community tree planting schemes are all in parts of the world that desperately need reforestation and have maximum scope to reduce CO2
Please limit yourself to one soft bag or rucksack as there is limited storage space on board. No suitcases please!
Tallulah does not have waterproof jacket and trousers yet, so please bring a properly waterproof jacket and trousers on all voyages.
Walking and cycling waterproofs are usually adequate and much lighter to pack, so there really is no need to buy a coastal sailing jacket (unless you really want an excuse to invest in your future sailing). If you need any advice, or lack of a jacket is preventing you participating, please ring us on 01326 53 1234
Tallulah does not always have wine bottles for sale on board so you are welcome to bring modest quantities of alcohol, (unless it is an alcohol free voyage) e.g. to drink with evening meals, but drinking whilst sailing is not allowed.
Photos and images of the striking 44ft pilot cutter Tallulah, offering charter voyages for individuals, couples and groups from 2022. Based in St Mawes, Cornwall. No experience is necessary and a local skipper as your guide.
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St Mawes, Cornwall
St Mawes, Cornwall
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