British sail boat builders Cornish Crabbers' business and assets are up for sale.

Cornish Crabbers, which builds the popular Crabber and Shrimper ranges, has been placed into voluntary liquidation.

The accountancy, insolvency and business recovery practice, Lameys confirmed to Practical Boat Owner magazine that insolvency practitioner Michelle Weir had been appointed liquidator.

It follows a creditors meeting on 13th March to discuss the passing of a resolution for the voluntary winding up of the partnership.

The meeting was called by the boatbuilder’s managing director and partner Peter Thomas, and the notice was published in The Gazette.

Cornish Crabbers is owned by Peter Thomas and Samantha Thomas, and is based at Rock, near Wadebridge.

The latest financial statement published in The Gazette for Cornish Crabbers LLP is from 31 December 2022. It shows that at that time, the boatbuilder owed over £1 million, with the amount falling due within one year.

This included debt of:

£134,606 in bank loans and overdrafts
£197,325 owed to trade creditors
£94,932 owed to social security and other taxes
£574,128 owed to other creditors

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The first Cornish Crabbers were built by Westerly Boats in 1973. Its most popular model, the Cornish Shrimper 19 – designed by Roger Dongray – has garnered a reputation as the best British production gaffer of all time.

More than 1,100 Cornish Shrimpers have been built since 1979 with the original boats still being sailed all over the world.

Other popular traditional-style vessels produced by the firm include the 24-30ft Crabbers, 20ft Cornish Limpet and 12ft Cornish Cormorant dinghies, Cornish Clam motorboat range, the Stephen Jones-designed Hunter Mystery 35, the Hunter Link and other boats in the Hunter range.

A Cornish SHrimper boat

A Cornish Shrimper sailing in Chichester Harbour. Credit: Stuart McGowan / Alamy Stock Photo

The company, formerly named Select Yachts, located in Rock, North Cornwall, previously went into voluntary liquidation in November 2008. The following year, its assets were bought by former customer and entrepreneur Philip Langsdale.

Rebranded Cornish Crabbers, it was helped by a grant of £150,000 from the European Regional Development Fund, which went towards buying the firm’s factory premise and designing new boats, like the Crabber 26.

In 2010 the business was reported to have a healthy order book and 28-strong staff.

Langsdale said at the time: “We are proud of being a British manufacturing business generating wealth for Cornwall and pleased that we have achieved this growth in what has been the deepest recession since the 1920s.”

Philip Langsdale left the business in December 2012.

Recently, the range built by Cornish Crabbers included the Limpet 10, Shrimper 17, 19 and 21, the Crabber 24MKV, 26 and Pilot Cutter 30, the Adventure 17, 19, 21 and 26, the Clam 17, 19 and 21 and the Mystery 30 and Mystery 35.

Lahloo, a Cornish Crabbers 26 yacht sailing off Cowes, Isle of Wight

Lahloo was among three 26ft Cornish Crabbers to complete The Association for Gaff Rig Sailing (OGA) Round Britain Cruise last year. Credit: Chris Brown

Early sale sought

The business and assets are available for sale through the liquidator’s agent Lambert Smith Hampton, which states that “an early sale is being sought and therefore interested parties should make contact without delay to confirm their expression of interest. Best offers to be submitted by 5pm on Monday 25 March”.

The business overview states that: The 2023 revenue was circa £2million. The sale includes an established range of sail boat models, including Shrimper 17, 19, 21, Crabber 24, 26, Pilot Cutter 30, Mystery 30, 35, plus others; work-in-progress covering 11 sail boats; production moulds for all models with replacements cost approaching around £1million; Intellectual property (IP) assets including yacht designs, productions drawings and associated info, website, customer base; a range of manufacturing machinery, factory equipment; plus stock of build parts and spares, worth approximately £160,000.

Owners testimonies

Cornish Crabber 26 owner Dermot Cox said: “Both my wife – who used to work for Westerly Yachts up to their final demise – and I have found the 26 to be a perfect cruising companion for the two of us. She has proved comfortable and sea kindly for our type of coastal sailing while remaining sufficiently compact to visit creeks and estuaries. Together we have explored the Channel Islands, Brittany and the south coast from the Isles of Scilly to the Solent. Very sad to hear the news about Cornish Crabbers. I went around the factory last spring with the very enthusiastic Peter Thomas when the works had every appearance of a thriving enterprise.”

Cornish Crabber 26

Dermot Cox’s Cornish Crabber 26

Trevor Heritage, honorary national secretary for the Shrimper Owners Association (SOA), described the Shrimper as being all things to all sailors: “It can be raced, cruised or day-sailed according to taste, and can of course be towed to different sailing waters.”
He said: “We at the SOA hope that the value in the design is recognised and that production can be rekindled by others on a sustainable basis. The SOA maintained close ties with the original owners of Cornish Crabbers and with subsequent owners of the company. The association’s officers were saddened to hear of the demise of the present company. Our thoughts are with those whose livelihoods have been disrupted and those customers who have boats currently under construction.”

Charles Erb takes delivery of his Cornish Crabber 26 ‘Molly of Mylor’

The archetypal modern gaffer, and beneath a near-flush deck there’s a surprising amount of accommodation. Credit: Peter Thomas

Charles Erb owns a Cornish Crabber 26 and is a member of the Old Gaffers Association (OGA).
“The day we stepped aboard our Cornish Crabber 26, Molly of Mylor, was such a thrill for my wife and me. We had outgrown our previous small gaffer and the 26ft suited us just right. My wife wanted a bigger boat with a separate sleeping area, a proper sea toilet and standing headroom. The crabber offers attractive gaff-rig lines in a practical cruiser that can sleep four if needed. In the time since, we have had some great adventures. Molly has not missed a beat and is very much part of the family,” he said.

Cornish Crabber 24 becalmed in the Bristol Channel

OGA Bristol Channel area secretary, Andrew Kelland’s Cornish Crabber 24. Credit: Viv Head

OGA Bristol Channel area secretary, Andrew Kelland ‘upgraded’ from a Cornish Crabber 17 in 2018 to Hetty Pegler, a 24 built in 1979, and is a big fan.
He was looking for a boat: “. . . on which I could make a cup of tea or coffee and spend some ‘Man-shed’ time over the winter period! Hetty gives my whole family enjoyment; with my wife, we lunch aboard, have a gentle sail, or sometimes just drift in the bay; with my grandchildren, we sleep aboard and play pirates, with my regular crew we race and make excursions out into the Bristol Channel and with my pontoon mates – we drink coffee and discuss boats, sailing, politics, religion. I have even played my trombone aboard at the late Queen’s Jubilee, and once whilst becalmed in the Bristol Channel.”

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