Skip to main content


If you are looking for a long weekend doing something completely different or keeping up your maritime skills, then original 1892 Brixham Trawler Leader offers a variety of voyages from one day to ten! This fabulous versatile ketch ensures a very stable boat with large decks and high bulwarks. With 12 fellow guest crew, a skipper, mate and fabulous cook you are promised a unique experience.

Latest voyages
Vessel Start Date End Date Start Port End Port Price


  • Length overall: 100ft (30.5m) 
  • Length on deck: 80ft (24.4m)


  • Year built: 1892
  • Vessel type/rig: Gaff Ketch 


  • Guest berths: 12
  • Crew berths: 5


The Experts view: What Leader does best 

Leader welcomes experienced and novice sailors who wish to sail a traditional ship.
Team Work!

Helps You Gain Confidence through Teamwork

Sailing Leader will fill your novice sailing boots with confidence as the Captain and crew welcome you on board for either a day sail or a longer voyage. Leader is 110 tons of British working history and you are encouraged to join as a team player and help hoist the sails by block and tackles, steer this mighty vessel and of course enjoy time relaxing on the spacious deck, or perhaps explore ashore after a busy day sailing. The sails and ropes are huge, and first impressions are 'how on earth at we going to hoist that mainsail.' Despite being a historic fishing boat in a working fishing port, the professional crew are not all hulking great fishermen types. Quite a few of the crew are women, including Leader's current skipper Emma. They are used to motivating youngsters, old salts and tiny sailors into hoisting 3150 square feet of canvas.....but perhaps not all at once. Feel your pride grow when you realise that whatever your strength, you are needed and a valuable part of the crew. The cooks freshly baked afternoon buns or cakes are legendary if you feel the need to replace the lost calories. 

Deep Sea Trawler - Ideal Expedition Ship

You will see several of our medium sized vessels described as good expedition ships. What we mean is they are self sufficient for at least a weeks adventuring without going near a marina or shop. They have big anchors and lots of chain for Norwegian fjords, Scottish lochs and the big tidal ranges in Brittany and the Channel Isles. It you want to explore wilderness areas with a small carbon footprint sailing ships like Leader are ideal. Leader visits the Highlands of Scotland most years and has made many trips to the Western Fjords of Norway. She often sails with a walking guide, musician or popular wildlife experts like Kenny Taylor.

Leader in Scotland

Takes Channel Crossings in her Stride

Based in Brixham, South Devon for much of the year, Leader is an old hand at crossing the Channel to Brittany or Normandy. It is only 70 miles to the Channel Isles too and the sailing track from here is often a beam or broad reach. With the prevailing SW or Westerly winds this is the fastest angle to the wind for sailing ships and a better starting off point that the Solent or Cornwall if you want to maximise your sailing and exploring time ashore in France.  The likely cruising speed is a reflection of waterline length so with a decent breeze or force 4 or above 80ft Leader can really eat up the miles with an incredibly stable deck compared with a typical charter yacht. She has incredible stability so you get a slight angle of heel and the high sides (bulwarks) make Leader feel like the authentic sailing ship that she is. You can stroll down the vast wooden decks in conditions where you would be on your hands and knees on a lighter yacht. Leader and her sister ship Provident have been taking charter crews to France for years, so the crews know many great anchorages in places like Sark, and the ship often winds its way up North Brittany rivers to favourite street markets and cafes in places like Treguier or Lezardrieux.

If it was a bit lumpy in the Channel and I wanted to reach the delights of Lezardrieux or Treguier and enjoy the crossing, I'd chose a Brixham Trawler every time" Julie P.

Brixham Trawler Leader offshore under full sail


What to Expect on Leader

Style of Sailing

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).

At night there is no array of electronic displays. Helming Leader by an antique compass and following a star is a similar same experience as it was in 1890's when she was built. Leader was converted from huge tiller to wheel steering many years ago, but you can have a lot of fun with a ships wheel that takes 18 turns from hard to port from hard to starboard. 

professional crew on Brixham Trawler leader
Professional crew on Brixham Trawler Leader

Life on Board

Whichever voyage you have chosen to experience on Leader we can promise you that you will have an adventure under friendly and experienced crew plus a great chef! 

The skipper and crew are experienced at running both adult adventure charter and personal development voyages for young people, so they are very thorough with their safety briefings and seamanship training, with lots of hands on opportunities for you to immediately try your new skills. 

Leader's short breaks are an ideal introduction to yacht sailors or any newcomer to big boat sailing. Sailing trawlers like Leader are ideal teaching platforms in all weathers to learn how to handle ropes and blocks and tackles safely, understand a bit about navigation or just revell in helming a powerful sailing ship, with someone close to hand if you need help. 

Leader's staff to guest ratio is high so they are also a good option for total beginners who don't want to do a formal RYA course but are looking for adventure. You will be learning similar skills to a RYA course like steering to windward or on different 'points of sailing' and the crew can explain the theory behind it all if you want to know more, but the emphasis is totally practical i.e. actually getting the trawler to go in a reasonably straight line to the next anchorage, using the wind to full advantage.  How much you want to absorb is up to you, but the crew are always happy to answer questions and love to explain as you sail, or afterwards as a teaching session.

Hauling with blocks and tackles on Leader
Hauling with blocks and tackles on Leader

If you are already hooked on  sailing, or have maybe done a Competent Crew course and looking for your first offshore experience, then the voyages up to Scotland from the West Country have a host of exciting experiences, longer passages and night sailing. There is plenty of challenge for experienced sailors - watch keeping, understanding the lights of ships at night, helping with the pilotage and recording the ships progress in the ships log and on the chart. Leader was built for fishing in all weathers so she offers a much more stable platform than a yacht in strong winds and waves.

Leader in Scotland is typically more day sailing and a quiet anchorage for the night, somewhere beautiful. The deep sounds between the islands are full of wildlife and the Outer and Inner Hebrides offer quite a bit of flat water. The wind finds its way over and between the mountains so your rarely lack wind, but the islands cut off the Atlantic swell. 

Leader has a large inflatable ships boat with outboard for getting ashore.  Everybody helps hoist it back on deck.  The anchor has a hydraulic windlass so you can afford to put down lots of chain and anchor in interest places that would be impossible for a smaller yacht.

Leader carries a dedicated ships cook (as well as a skipper, mate and bosun) and you can buy bottles of wine on board, on charter voyages.  Three meals a day, BBQ's ashore you don't have to pack for, and possibly the smell of cake or bread baking are all the advantages on sailing on a ketch with 4 professional crew.

Apart from a team effort with washing up, domestic chores are generally done by the ships crew too, but you might like to help scrub the decks for exercise (good for the core muscles and keeps the deck seams tight)


Crew BBQ in the Scillies
Photo by Debbie Purser: Crew BBQ in the Scillies

Accommodation on Leader

Skipper Toni finds a better use for the chart table on Leader
Skipper Toni finds a better use for the chart table on Leader

Below Decks

Down below there is plenty of headroom and Leader has accommodation for twelve guests and five crew. There is a large saloon area, a galley with a large gas cooker, two heads and a generator that supplies a ring main with 240v electricity. Leader has a well equipped navigation station with a chart table big enough for teaching or in skipper Toni's mind - an perfect easel for painting.

The main companionway is relatively steep and takes you down to the Navigation area and the galley is on the opposite side. This is a wide vessel so you can see the saloon from here and its big enough for a 'dinner party' plus a few friends.

Beyond the saloon is a bulkhead (wall) so you can escape to your bunk early if you have had too much fresh air for the day! All the guest berths are all in the same communal area however, as Leader is so spacious down below decks the bunks are arranged similar to cabins with storage cupboards, two bulkheads and curtains creating a bit of privacy. Each bunk has its own reading light and a bunk curtain so you have another level of privacy.

There are two hot water showers with water heated by a water heater. Depending on your specific voyage there could be opportunities to go ashore for a shower. As Leader’s voyages are sometimes in remote areas of Scotland, Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly then your alternative shower might be wild sea swimming so bring your swim suit!

Safety, Communications and Navigation

Leader has modern navigation equipment including Radar, GPS and DSC VHF Radio. Most of the time she is UK certified for Sail training and commercial voyages up to 60 miles from a safe haven, but when she wants to go further afield like across the North Sea to Norway, she has a stability rating good enough for offshore voyaging and can easily increase her coding to category 1 and 150 miles from port.

Leader has lots of room down below decks.
Freshly cooked meals are enjoyed in the large saloon down below decks.
setting sail on leader

Leader was one of the largest of the Brixham sailing trawlers, a class known to fishermen as the ‘Big Sloops’. A gaff ketch with two masts, Leader was built in 1892 at W. A. Gibbs’ yard at Galmpton on the River Dart in Devon where she then fished in UK waters until 1907.

Built 1892  
length overall (sparred length) 100ft 30.5m
length on deck 80ft 24.4m
beam 19ft 5.9m
draught 10ft  
displacement 100  tons 110 tons
GRT   53.21 tonnes
Sail area 2390 sq ft 222 sq metres
Engine 160hp  


Swedish owners bought her and she operated on Sweden’s west coast until 1970, when she became a sail training vessel for the Swedish Cruising Club.

In 1985 she moved to the west coast of Scotland where, as ‘Lorne Leader’, she was used for sailing holidays and charter for ten years. In 1996 she was brought home to South Devon, and operated from Dartmouth until 1999, when she became part of the Trinity fleet, based in Brixham.

Since that time, Leader has undergone a programme of restoration culminating in a £250,000 project to replace her decks, bulwarks and stanchions. The ‘Leader Project’, which was completed in May 2012, was part funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £170,000 and the cheque was handed over the Trinity by the Eastender’s actor Larry Lamb.

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).

The current full time skipper of Leader: Mark Ehlen

Name: Mark Ehlen


What is your role? I’m the Skipper of Leader.


What are looking forward to most about the upcoming season? Getting back on board a classic sailing vessel. I have spent a few years on a wide variety of different vessels and it is a privilege to be invited into the Trinity fold and to sail a genuine historic vessel.


What’s your best piece of advice for someone who has never been sailing before? Arrive with an open mind and prepare to enjoy yourself.


When you’re not sailing, what else do you enjoy doing? Anything outdoors, particularly motorcycle touring. I like to learn about other cultures and traditions. Nature is a big draw for me.

Mark on Leader


Skipper – Emma

Emma was mate on Provident and Leader last year and is looking forward to flying the flag for female skippers as she takes command of Leader in 2018.

Emma has worked on tall ships and traditional sailing vessels for many years. The photo above is Emma working on Bark Europa on a Trans Atlantic heading for Brazil and Patagonia. She has driven zodiacs with guests amongst the ice in Antarctica, so she is well travelled and worked with all ages of guest crew.

The Skipper has overall responsibility for the vessel and crew at sea. They have a minimum of Yachtmaster Offshore commercial endorsement if not higher.  Leader’s Skipper is very much at home on board this beautiful traditional sailing vessel and have a strong track record in sail training and sailing instruction. The skipper will also have many other skills and qualities involved with working with a diverse group of clients and taking these vessels to sea.

To sail one of these traditional vessels the Skippers have to be a highly skilled and a passionate sailor and this is rewarded by the opportunity to become one of the few people who have the chance to manage one of these unique vessels.


Toni Knights has skippered most Brixham Sailing Trawlers including Leader
Toni Knights has skippered most Brixham Sailing Trawlers including Leader

Relief Skipper - Toni Knights

Mate -

The Mate is the second in command. They mainly run the deck when at sea making sure everyone is safe and delegating jobs to make sure the boat is sailed efficiently. They will hold a minimum of Coastal Yachtmaster with commercial endorsement and probably a keen ambition to become a skipper for a traditional wooden vessel.

Cook – Robin Maddex

The Cook will produce healthy nutritious meals three times a day with numerous delicious cakes and pastries in between. All the food is cooked fresh and is locally sourced and many delicious meals will be enjoyed after a great day under sail.


This is primarily a training role. They are trained on aspects such as the rigging, systems and engine, and will also be taught navigation and sail handling and be given the opportunity to practice and refine these skills. They will often start with us by learning the core sailing techniques and skills but by the end of the season they should have gained their RYA Watch Leader & Day Skipper certificates.

5th Hand

This position is made up of Deckhands, Bosun’s or Assistant Cooks. This is an ideal role for someone new to Trinity and allows then to settle in to the general sailing of the vessel and learn enough to be a useful hand around the boat without the pressure of a more senior role. This is the first step on the ladder to becoming part of the professional crew.


Current sailing grounds
The Hebrides is a familiar sailing ground for Leader. Adventure weeks & themed voyages with experts

What others say about us


Facebook reviews

"A life changing experience with talented crew who gave us hope for mankind ...and biscuits"

Customer comments

Read what the press say about our holidays

Magazine articles


Why book with Classic Sailing?

The call of the sea

Destinations for sailors & explorers

Over 300 voyages a year

11, 051 customers introduced to

traditional boats and tall ships.

Tell us your sailing dreams


Office Team of 4 Skippers

6 Times Around the World between Us

Selling Holidays for 22 Years

3 Dogs to make us laugh

Contact Us

How to Book

Voyage Applications Online 24 /7

How to book a voyage

Terms & Conditions   Travel Insurance

Loyalty Discounts & Price Match

Frequently Asked Questions