Vigilance BM76, the classic Brixham sailing trawler, has been awarded an £820k grant from the Cultural Assets Fund (CAF), which is administered by the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF). The grant will finance vital ‘below the waterline’ repairs.  Nigel Gooding, the Finance Director of the Charity which owns and operates Vigilance, says “This is great news. We are extremely grateful for this award from the National Heritage Memorial Fund for recognising the national importance of Vigilance. The grant is urgently needed to carry out essential maintenance and it will, quite literally, save this historic ship from disaster.”

The award is a huge relief for all the volunteers as the classic sailing trawler faced an uncertain future without substantial funding. Nigel Gooding says “This grant is a life saver, it’s a real turning point. It will now allow us to plan for the immediate future and means Vigilance’s red sails will be seen in Tor Bay for years to come.” Brixham would not be the world famous fishing port it is today without boats like Vigilance and this grant is especially important for future generations as it will enable them to understand the fishing heritage of the area.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund is administering the CAF funding as part of its £40 million UK-wide COVID-19 Response Fund, to safeguard nationally important heritage which is at risk due to the pandemic. The COVID-19 Response Fund includes the £20 million Department of Digital, Culture Media and Sport CAF available to heritage organisations in England, boosted by a further £20 million of NHMF funds to support UK-wide organisations.

Vigilance will go into dry dock in Plymouth in September and the work is expected to last around 20 months.  The initial task is massive and involves the replacement of the hull and supporting beams. This grant covers just Phase One of the repairs. Further funds are needed to complete the repairs and when Vigilance leaves the shipyard she will be as good as new. Brixham sailing trawlers were built as disposable boats with an expected life of 12 to 15 years. It is a testimony the efforts of the many volunteers over the years that she’s survived 96 years and she will now celebrate her centenary in 1926 in fine style.

Funds will be released as each stage of the work is completed. “The stage-by-stage funding will allow an extensive inspection and repairs below the waterline. It will ensure the boat’s backbone and structure will provide a good foundation to complete further repairs to the deck and superstructure.” says Nigel Gooding.

This is phase one of a planned programme of restoration and Nigel Gooding warns “Our fight to keep Vigilance in Brixham has received a major boost but big obstacles and more fund raising lie ahead. I see this as a reward for our hard work but we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Onwards and Upwards.”

Dr. Simon Thurley CBE, Chair National Heritage Memorial Fund, says  “The National Heritage Memorial Fund has a long history of supporting nationally important maritime heritage, so we are delighted that funding from the Cultural Assets Fund will enable a vital step forward for protecting the future of Vigilance. This funding will not only ensure the historic vessel can celebrate its centenary in 2026 but will also keep its stories and heritage alive for future generations.”  

News of the grant was welcomed by Brixham Councillor, Vic Ellery, a Member of the Torbay Harbour Authority, who said “This is a historic day for the future of the Vigilance historic sailing trawler. This grant will ensure that generations of children in Brixham will learn the fishing heritage of the town. This is the start of an exciting era in historic sailing excursions which can only enhance the formidable reputation this vessel enjoys.”

Once the repairs are complete Vigilance will once again take locals and visitors for trips around Tor Bay, along the English Riviera coast and beyond from her berth on the Heritage Pontoon in Brixham Harbour.