An historic Swansea Council-owned boat has got a thrilling new lease of life. The 110-year-old Olga will provide potentially life-changing sailing voyages to people from all backgrounds. She will also spread knowledge of her own rich history and that of Swansea’s seafaring heritage as she sails around the UK.
Her new life comes thanks to an innovative five-year partnership agreement that sees the council loan the boat to not-for-profit organisation Sailing Tectona CIC.
Sailing Tectona is a community interest company that provides sail training opportunities for people of all ages, but particularly those in recovery from substance misuse or mental health issues. Their voyages allow individuals to become an efficient sailing team through the process of taking a boat to sea. Teamwork, communication and resilience are all developed daily whilst hoisting sails, navigating and living onboard. These skills often allow people to make positive changes in their lives after the voyage.
Robert Francis-Davies, the council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Sailing Tectona CIC who will now write a rich new chapter in Olga’s story."
“The council retains ownership of this wonderful vessel, which has received grants reflecting its historic status. We’re pleased we can protect it for the duration of the loan as Sailing Tectona will invest time and money in Olga – including taking responsibility for the five-figure maintenance costs."
“Rather than facing an uncertain future during these times of austerity, Olga will be doing what she was built for – sailing the seas in the hands of an expert, enthusiastic, caring crew."
“Olga will benefit greatly from being used regularly and frequently, with the crew keeping a close eye on her needs. She will, of course, make return visits to Swansea so our residents can continue to enjoy her as part of a planned programme of activities, whilst she enjoys her new lease of life.”
Ben Williams, Director of Sailing Tectona, said: “We are thrilled to add another vessel to our fleet, particularly one with such an amazing history as Olga’s. We believe that Olga can inspire a new generation of people to engage with the sea and to learn invaluable lessons from that experience."
“Olga is unique in the fact that she is the only original Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter in public ownership; Sailing Tectona is really excited to be able to offer a unique sailing experience to those who would not necessarily get a chance to sail on board this
style of vessel. So please do get involved!”
Olga – almost 56ft long and more than 13ft wide - was built in 1909 at Porthleven, West Cornwall. She is one of only a handful of Bristol Channel Pilot Cutters in the world. When a cargo ship was spotted heading towards a Bristol Channel port such as Swansea, these wooden sail boats would race out to meet her; the first one there got the job of sailing the larger boat in. The vessels were designed for speed and stability.
Olga worked as a pilot cutter out of Barry from 1909-17 when she was sold to Swansea and registered as a fishing vessel in 1918. She was then sold as a private yacht and remained as such, before being acquired by the council in 1984.
She has been retained as a part of Swansea Museum’s “floating collection” ever since, having regular maintenance and occasionally heading into the channel. Her main presence has been at Swansea Marina, where she was moored for viewing from a pontoon.
Cllr Francis-Davies said: “We believe that Olga is the only remaining Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter in public ownership. Her loan to Sailing Tectona means she will have a genuine seafaring role as she did in her prime in the early 20th Century."
“Swansea has a rich sailing and maritime heritage and this loan will help keep the past alive and offer future generations valuable knowledge of the role she and Swansea played in maritime history."
“It’s great that Olga is now in the hands of a trusted not-for-profit partner who will make great use of her. They will take great care to help preserve her for future generations to learn from and enjoy.
“It’s not the end of her direct links with Swansea, of course; she’ll still be visiting the
The loan is the result of a process, including public consultation, which the council
undertook to make tens of millions of pounds worth of savings due to austerity.
A number of bidders offered thoughtful new plans for Olga and the council felt that Sailing Tectona offered the best deal for the boat, the people of Swansea and the wider public. No money changed hands in the loan deal but the council will save a five-figure sum every year thanks the Sailing Tectona agreeing to take on maintenance responsibilities.