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Historic Jumbo boats back in St Ives

BBC Spotlight's Matt Pengelly takes a look at the Jumbo boats

The St Ives "Jumbo" was a small wooden fishing boat with two masts, popular around the end of the 19th Century.

They were pointed at both ends and were flat bottomed, so they could be left "beached" in St Ives harbour when the tide went out.

They're classed as Luggers,but are much smaller than the port's famous mackerel boats

The St Ives Jumbos fell out of fashion and had virtually disappeared by the 1920s.

Jumbo boat
Johnny Nance has brought the boats back to life using an original sketch

It's thought the nickname 'Jumbo' was a reference to their size, as the original Jumbo the African elephant was living at London Zoo at the time, causing a sensation in the Victorian newspapers.

Their revival owes a lot to boatbuilder Johnny Nance and his family. All that was left of the Jumbo design was a sketch from the yard of master boatbuilder William Paynter and archive photographs held by St Ives Museum.

Taking those documents as a guide, and using his own knowledge of woodworking techniques, Johnny Nance was able to bring the Jumbo back to life, together with local enthusiasts under the banner of the "St Ives Jumbo Association".

After months of hard work in Johnny's workshop near Cullompton in Devon and fundraising in west Cornwall, the "Celeste" was launched into St Ives Bay in 2007 - but the association were not content with that. Work started to build a second Jumbo, so the pair could be raced.

Johnny Nance explained: "The launch of this boat is going to be exciting because it is the launch of the Jumbo Class. It's not just putting another boat in the water. Hopefully we'll be able to get racing pretty soon.

"First and foremost she's a beach boat, she's designed to be landed, which is obviously the situation you face in St Ives with its harbour. She's a very easily driven hull and yet she's a load bearing hull. She's a very happy combination of qualities that I think makes her ideal as a racing craft.

Johnny Nance
Johnny has spent many months perfecting his jumbo boat

"Racing Jumbos will be a dynamic means of encouraging people of all ages to engage with the sea and each other whilst learning seamanship skills, developing self-esteem and a sense of pride in the town's rich heritage."

The 'Celeste' is currently stored in a shed in Lelant, awaiting a lick of paint and general maintenance. It's hoped she will be ready to launched back into the sea in April. The plan is to launch the new Jumbo - whose name is a closely guarded secret - in June.

St Ives Sailing Club have got involved to offer training to wannabe lugger racers and the St Ives Jumbo Association is still fundraising but has received royal support from HRH Prince Charles via The Duke of Cornwall's Benevolent Fund.

"The recognition by HRH Prince Charles of this important project is a huge boost for the town of St.Ives." said Harry Isaacs, chair of the Association.

"It shows he acknowledges the long term benefits for the community that the launch of a second jumbo could bring."

Goss gets on board

They've also secured a talk by the Cornish sailor Pete Goss, just back from sailing a lugger to Australia. The trip recreated the courageous voyage of 1854 when seven desperate fishermen sailed Down Under from Newlyn in search of a better life.

Pete Goss said: "What an inspirational project! I'm delighted to have signed up as a 'shareholder' in support. Its modest aims belie numerous beneficial side-effects for the community. I have no doubt that in years to come the Jumbo will have iconic significance for St.Ives and will be a great source of satisfaction to all those involved."

'An Evening with Pete Goss' takes place on Friday 9th April. The Guildhall, St.Ives. Doors 7pm. Admission £5.

There'll be a raffle and a brief auction. A bar will be provided by the St.Ives Lions Club. To reserve your tickets, please send cheques, payable to 'The St.Ives Jumbo Association', to: The Tourist Information Centre, The Guildhall, St.Ives TR26 2DS or call 01736 796297.

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