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Leader Brixham Sailing Trawler

Brixham Sailing Trawler Leader - sail part of our maritime heritage

Leader is an impressive surviving example of the 'Big Sloops' that played their part in revolutionising the UK fishing industry in Victorian times. Launched in 1892, Leader was one of the largest Brixham sailing trawlers ever built at Gibbs Boatyard on the river Dart. In her fishing heyday there were nearly 3000 similar gaff rigged beam trawlers fishing the offshore waters of Northern Europe. Today only a handful survive, and it is not a coincidence that the Brixham sailing trawlers still sailing are mostly involved in adventure charter or youth sail training. They make great expedition ships with big wooden decks, a sailing rig that offers lively sailing in a strong breeze, and that feeling that the tons of oak that create the hulls of these powerful workhorses will look after you well in a blow.

A core collection vessel on the UK Historic Ships Register, Leader has spent longer now as a charter vessel than her former fishing life, so she has undergone many restorations to keep her in tip top condition, and ranges far and wide from her home port of Brixham.

Leader Sailing Schedule - voyage descriptions, dates and prices

What Does Leader Do Best ?

Adventure cruises on Leader are a mixture of activity afloat, exploration ashore and pure relaxation.  On most cruises fixed itineraries are avoided, allowing us the maximum freedom to go with the weather, not fight it, and to yield to the mood of the moment: to press on to a new destination that lies over the horizon, visit the local market or just ramble ashore, swim and enjoy a barbeque on a quiet beach.

Sailing Leader is done the traditional way and does require a team effort.  As with all Classic Sailing vessels, there are no winches, only blocks and tackles to hoist sails. Technique is more important than strength, so everyone can join in and learn to sail this magnificient vessel.  Alternatively, you can tuck yourself up in a corner with a good book.  How much or how little you do is entirely up to you.  The ships wheel is a great vantage point to soak up views of the wooden decks and savour helming 110 tons of British working history, with the cream sails powering you along the coast. If you are on a long or overnight passage the guest crew will be split into watches and take turns at sailing the ship or resting.

Leader has had a fascinating life since her launch in 1892. She fished in UK waters until 1907, when she was sold to new owners in Scandinavia. She remained there as a working vessel until the 1960's, when she became a sail training vessel under the flag of the Swedish Cruising Club. In 1985, she was taken to the West coast of Scotland, where she was used for sailing charter holidays. In 1996 she was brought home to South Devon, and operated from Dartmouth until 1999, when she returned to Brixham.

Learn more about her fishing years, early charter voyages, sail training, and see the photos of her massive hull timbers and some major restorations over the years. History and Restoration Story.

"We were all very impressed by the captain and crew on board Leader. A really excellent crew, so professional, so competent, such patience and kindness. Would love to come again" Jacqueline

"A vessel that inspired confidence in the roughest of weather, plua a superb crew in attendance. The dinner parties in the evening were delightful". Brian

More Leader Customer Comments

Where Does Leader Sail ? Favourite Destinations

Devon and Cornwall Short Breaks

If you want to experience living history, help keep our maritime skills alive, or simply enjoy a long weekend doing something completely different, then Leader offers a few short breaks each year in their home waters of South Devon and along the coast to Cornwall.  These 2-5 day voyages start from £245 (2 nights) include all accommodation on board, sailing instruction and great meals, freshly prepared by the ships cook.  If you love live music and sailing then 2017 will be a bumper year with Folk music voyages, shanty voyages on Leader and the every popular Paimpol Fete du Marin in Brittany.

Why not buy a taster Voyage for a present for a friend or relative ?  If you have fond memories of sailing Leader in the past ( or Lorne Leader as she was once known) why not come back for a blast around the bay. Classic Sailing also sell gift vouchers and a whole range of short breaks to chose from on Brixham Trawlers, pilot cutters, luggers and historic trading ketches.

You can buy a gift voucher on our website and chose your a suitable e-birthday card to download straight away. The gift voucher can be any value, used on any vessel in the  Classic Sailing fleet...and it lasts 3 years. Classic Sailing Gift Vouchers

Isles of Scilly, Scotland and Brittany

Leader and her sister ship Provident generally take it in turns to offer a summer sailing ground, further afield.  In midsummer 2017 Leader will be taking advantage of the long daylight hours by heading North for her favourite haunts along the West Coast of Scotland. She has voyages from both Oban and Mallaig, so the potential cruising ground stretches from Skye to the Outer Hebrides, SW to Iona or Islay and the deep lochs and mountains of mainland Scotland. The wildlife voyage with expert guide Kenny Yatlor is one not to be missed.

In late summer Leader migrates back South for the Paimpol 'Temps Fete du Marin'  Shanty Festival which attracts wooden boats and tall ships from all over Europe, and sailors and musicians from all over the world. Leader will then be based if Cornwall for a series of island hopping weeks in the Isles of Scilly, and Channel crossings to the Channel Isles or Brittany.

Sailing Style and Accommodation

Leader is rigged as she would have been when first built, as a gaff ketch to haul a fishing beam trawl. She is 80' long on deck, and 105' overall. She displaces about 110 tonnes in sailing trim. She has a beam of 19'6" and a draft of 10'. There is no cockpit like a yacht. Just a huge deck with high bulwarks. Leader is rigged now just as she was when she fished under sail, over 100 years ago. She has a 'Gaff Rig', indicating that the Main and Mizzen sails are hoisted using a 'gaff', a spar attached to their upper side. The Ketch rig (two masts) was used to divide up the sail area, making each sail easier to handle by a small crew. The large number of sails (up to eight) makes it easy to 'change gear' by hoisting or lowering sails as required, depending upon the strength of the wind.

The Ketch rig is very versatile; good in light winds, when extra sails can be set (such as flying jib and mizzen staysail), good in heavy winds (she can sail under mizzen and staysail alone) and good for manoeuvring (the mizzen can be used to help to balance and turn the boat).


Leader has good headroom below decks with bunks grouped into cabin areas of 4 bunks with curtains for each bunk - plus some curtains when you need them to divide up space into smaller sleeping / changing areas.  There is a huge dining table to seat about 18 crew and guests. Leader takes a maximum of 12 guest crew plus skipper, mate, cook and deckhand.

Learn more about Leaders interior accommodation with photos and layout

Ship specification details - Leader's vital statistics

Adventure charter for individuals, group bookings and sail training

Leader also has a major role as a sail training ship for youth development, so her adult charter voyages for individuals are few, so don't leave it too late to book her summer voyages.  Please ring us for availability if you would like to charter the whole vessel outside these adult charter weeks as there may be a slot or two unused by school groups if you are quick.

Leader - Full Summer Programme for Adventure Charter Voyages





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