Out and About with… Falmouth Classics

Posted: 15th May 2023

As part of our new blog series, “Out and About”, we are interviewing local events and charities that Heather & Lay champion and support. To kickstart the series, we had the opportunity to interview the Chairman of Falmouth Classics, Keith Tullett, in advance of the upcoming event in June. At Heather & Lay we really care about community events and Falmouth Classics is one we have been involved with for a few years. There is no better sight than 100+ boats competing and that sense of community spirit. After all, if there’s one thing we love at Heather & Lay as much as land, it’s water. Here is what happened when we chatted to Keith…


Hi Keith, we would love to hear about the Falmouth Classics – when is it and what occurs

Falmouth Classics has been running for over 36 years, but it only transformed into a 3-day festival in 2013. It takes place every year in the middle of June and this year it takes place on Friday 16th – Sunday 18th June. Last year over 175 boats attended. It is one of, if not the largest classic boat events in the UK. It’s not as big as the French festivals on which it is based but it’s quite something. There is an event in southern Brittany which has around 1200 boats!


So what exactly is the origin of Falmouth Classics?


Influenced by sailing event in Brittany it originally started in 1987. Some years ago, it became part of Falmouth Week which takes place every August, a one-day boating event as part of the week but it sort of lost its identity really. So, 10 years ago we developed a new format - a three-day festival that is all about the boats and takes place at the same time as the International Shanty Festival. In 2013 we started with 35 boats and a few sponsors and built up from there. It has taken on a life of its own and there is lots of loyalty, with sponsors and boats alike. It has reached a level of involvement that none of us could have imagined. 


What happens at the event?


There are 3 races with different classes within each race. As well as the daily racing, there’s also a social side. Lots of our competitors return each year but some also come along simply to show off their boat and be part of the social element. On Thursday we commence with a beer and pasty supper on the pontoons then on Friday we have a drinks reception and nibbles, on Saturday we have supper at the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club and on Sunday it’s the prize giving. The format we have developed works perfectly and after 10 years we have it down to a fine art.


Can people come along to watch the event?


Certainly, and I would encourage them to watch the Grand Parade. There are some incredible vantage points around the Carrick Roads, e.g. St Anthony Point, St Mawes Castle, or in Falmouth, you cannot beat Pendennis point. The smaller boats race on the Carrick Roads whereas the bigger boats go out into the bay. With over 100 boats racing, it’s quite a sight! Some members of the public are also allowed onto the pontoons to see the boats on Saturday morning. 


Can anyone compete?


Any classic boat can participate, so any boat built that is at least 50 years ago or of traditional style or traditional materials. We have a variety of boats - from small day boats to cruising boats that can sleep 6 crew or former fishing boats that can accommodate 15 people and the working boats, it varies year on year. There’s a small fee to enter and a small fee to race so for much less than £100, you can enjoy 3 days of social celebrations and racing, it’s brilliant value.


Have you ever had to cancel the event?


Apart from the pandemic in 2020, we’ve never had to cancel the entire event before. On the odd occasion we’ve had to cancel or reschedule a competition. For example, last year we had bad weather. There were 47 knots of wind on the Saturday afternoon, so racing was cancelled. Nobody wants their boat damaged by the storms and it wasn’t sensible or safe. In 2021 it was the year of the G7 event which happened the same weekend as Falmouth Classics. We met with government representatives, and they were keen that the event went ahead as planned, albeit with a lot of jet ski Border Force.



We are incredibly proud to be a sponsor of Falmouth Classics and we know we are in great company, you have such an impressive cast of sponsors.


Lots of our sponsors have been with us for a few years and we are glad that Heather and lay are one of these. The majority of our sponsors are local and willing to be a part of what we do. This is the third year of involvement for our title sponsors, Atkins Ferrie, and we hope this will continue for many years


A lot of our sponsors are relevant, eg leading British marine paint brand Teamac and Classic Boat magazine but there are some that are not, for example Heather and Lay who are best known for being property experts. However, most of our sponsors, even those not related to the industry, have a passion for classic boats and it’s this love for our local harbour that unites us.


We have a dedicated committee of 18 people organising the classics - everybody has a job, and it works incredibly well. Lots of us have previously been involved with the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club where I was Commodore.


Can people still apply to race in the event?


Yes, enrolments are still being accepted right up until the event but there is limited free berthing in Falmouth haven, available on a first come basis - the early bird gets the berth! You can apply to compete in the Falmouth classics via the website, www.falmouthclassics.org.uk.


What a great interview and a chance to find out more about Falmouth Classics. We will certainly be there, soaking up the atmosphere. The Heather and Lay steam and small boat parade will take place in the inner harbour from 13.30 - 14.30 on Sunday 18th June. Do come along and join the fun, you’ll find us celebrating and spectating shoreside. To find out more or apply to race, visit the website or social media www.instagram.com/falmouthclassics


Image credit: Nigel Sharp





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