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Princess Anne praises 30 years of Portsoy Boat Festival as a ‘beacon’ of cultural knowledge

Thousands gathered for the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival in Portsoy.

Princess Anne mingling with the crowds at Portsoy Boat Festival. Image: Jason Hedges/ DC Thomson.
Princess Anne mingling with the crowds at Portsoy Boat Festival. Image: Jason Hedges/ DC Thomson.

Princess Anne has praised Portsoy Boat Festival for being a ‘”beacon” of “cultural knowledge” as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.

The Princess Royal officially opened the traditional boat festival in front of hundreds of people in the town today.

Lord-Lieutenant of Banffshire, Andrew Simpson, welcomed Princess Anne to the event and said it was a “privilege” to have her attend.

She was accompanied by her husband, Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence.

Princess Anne told the crowd gathered near the stage how important the festival is for keeping ancient skillsets alive.

She said: “Portsoy has been a real beacon for maintaining cultural knowledge.”

The crowd gathers to listen to Princess Anne’s speech. Image: Cameron Roy/ DC Thomson.

At the end of her speech, she thanked the volunteer organisers of the festival before she inspected the Sea Cadets, followed by a walk through the crowd.

Sea Cadets rise to the big occasion

Two Sea Cadets, a charity of which Princess Anne is the patron of, said they were both “nervous and excited” in the leadup to the inspection.

Islay and Kirsty, both 13 and from Peterhead, said they both awake at 10.30pm the night before to polish their shoes and make sure their uniforms were in perfect condition.

Kirsty said: “Princess Anne asked me how long I had been in the Sea Cadets and what activities I enjoyed – I told her boating and sailing”.

Sea Cadets Islay and Kirsty after their inspection by Princess Anne. Image: Cameron Roy/DC Thomson.

It was Princess Anne’s second visit to the event, having previously attended in 2009.

First launched in 1993, the Portsoy Boat Festival weekend will see dozens of heritage boats drop anchor in the harbour to showcase the north-east’s longstanding maritime heritage.

This includes the 122-year-old herring drifter Reaper which has recently undergone major renovations and is part of the National Historic Fleet of the UK.

The town, which has an estimated population of 1,500 people, will see visitor numbers ranging from 16,000 to 20,000 across the weekend.

The Portsoy Pipe Band also performed several times throughout the day as part of the band’s biggest event of the year.

One couple who was enjoying the festivities was Richard and Debbie Voigt from Perth. The recent retired transport worker and nurse stayed in Cullen on Friday night to ensure they could get down early and enjoy the fun.

The keen paddleboarders previously owned a boat of their own which they used for watersports.

Richard and Debbie Voigt enjoying the sunshine in Portsoy. Image: Cameron Roy/DC Thomson.

“We like it up here on the Moray Firth”, said Mr Voigt.

“But you can’t shout about the benefits of the Moray coast or it will get too busy.”

Boat enthusiasts celebrate cultural heritage

Another couple making the most of the festivities was Cate Scrimshaw and Alasdair McElhinney.

Both the retired occupational therapist and the civil engineer are keen rowers as part of the Avoch Community Rowing Club.

Cate Scrimshaw and Alasdair McElhinney inside the boat building barn. Image: Cameron Roy/DC Thomson.

Mr McElhinney said: “I have always been really interested in wooden boats, I have even owned one in the past.

“It is just great being here and seeing Portsoy.”

Sea shanties fill the Portsoy air

An important aspect of keeping traditions alive comes from the music that could be heard throughout the day.

Local folk band Salty Dogs was represented by Anne Stewart on guitar and Alison Skinner on melodeon.

They are regular attendees of the boat festival and were delighting the public with a mixture of folk and traditional tunes.

Anne Stewart and Alison Skinner take a break between songs at the harbour. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson.

But this year they have been playing a new sea shanty song, the Wellerman, after it went viral over the past few years on the internet.

The song originates from New Zealand whalers from over 100 years ago.

Ms Stewart said: “It is very important to get a feel of the songs and where they originate from”.

Thrilling raft race comes down to the wire

Later in the day was the widely anticipated raft race.

There were five teams taking part, including one from the fire service, HM Coastguard, Portsoy Outdoor Pool and Gray Composting.

However, despite an extremely tight finish, the fire service won the race for the second year in a row.

Watch the final seconds of the raft race below.

Winners Chris Sutherland, 25, Matty Smith, 39, and David Forsyth, 37, said they “delighted” to retain their title admitting there were some nerves beforehand.

But the firemen said they were looking forward to “winning the treble” next year.

The winning boat race team of Matty Smith, David Forsyth and Chris Sutherland. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson.

See a gallery of the day’s best pictures below:

Princess Anne joins crowds for return of Portsoy Boat Festival