Four historic vessels from around the UK have been designated the National Historic Ships UK's Flagships for 2024

Since 2009, National Historic Ships UK has been appointing Flagships of the Year to promote and celebrate the value of historic vessels to the public.

For 2024, the four vessels flying the Flagships of the Year flag are all part of the National Historic Fleet.

They are:

Waverley: the last Clyde paddle steamer built and the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world, with a busy cruise schedule planned for 2024

Challenge: the last surviving example of a large purpose-built, Thames ship-handling steam tug, with an impressive war history

Provident: a Brixham trawler now offering classic sailing holidays in Scotland, celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2024

Lady Daphne: the 101-year-old spritsail barge, now moored at Charlestown Harbour and offering a varied events programme

A paddel steamer moving along the water

One of the last Clyde paddle steamers. Waverley will be touring around the UK in 2024. Credit: National Historic Ships UK

All four vessels will be allowed to fly a special broad pennant from the masthead and will receive a brass plaque and a copy of the National Historic Ships UK guidance manual Conserving Historic Vessels.

Each flagship will hold a flag-hoisting ceremony during May and June 2024 to celebrate its new status.

To be chosen by National Historic Ships UK as a flagship, the custodians of these historic vessels must demonstrate how they promote the importance of preserving these types of ships and craft.

This can be through online activities, special events, open days, workshops and tours.

For 2024, National Historic Ships UK has chosen one national flagship, one static and two operational vessels to act as ambassadors for the UK’s maritime heritage sector.

National Historic Ships UK will work closely with each of the flagships to promote their vessel and offer support and advice.

A paddlesteamer boat operating at night

Waverley was fully restored between 2000-2003. Credit: Graeme Phanco

The National Flagship of the Year 2024 is the paddle steamer, Waverley.

It is the last Clyde paddle steamer built, and the last sea-going paddle steamer which is still operational in the world.

Waverley was built in 1946 for the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) to replace war losses.

For the first 20 years, her main excursion routes were along the Clyde to the West Coast coastal resorts, as well as into Loch Fyne and the Kyles of Bute, and as far afield as the Isle of Arran.

Since 1974, Waverley has been owned by Waverley Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. and is operated by Waverley Excursions.

In 2000-2003 she underwent a major rebuild with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Continues below…

Now fully restored and painted in her original LNER colours, Waverley continues to cruise around the UK coast each summer with a busy schedule of cruises planned for 2024, starting on 17 May in Glasgow and the Clyde Coast.

The timetable includes Oban and the Inner Hebrides, the Bristol Channel, North Wales and the Mersey, the South West, South Coast and Isle of Wight, London and the Thames Estuary, before returning to the Clyde for the final sailings of the season in October.

The steam tug, Challenge, received the Operational Flagship of the Year 2024 award.

Built in 1931 by Alexander Hall & Co. Ltd of Aberdeen, Challenge is the last surviving example of a large purpose-built, Thames ship-handling steam tug, where she was based for her entire working life.

A tug with a black hull, part of the National HIstoric Ships UK fleet

Challenge in strong winds on the Thames. Credit: Mike Smith

She has an impressive war history, being one of the Dunkirk Little Ships engaged in the evacuation of Allied troops from France, and, after returning to the Thames, towing Maunsell anti-aircraft towers out into the Thames estuary and, in 1944, towing parts of the Mulberry harbours used in the D-Day landings.

In July 1944, she was damaged by a V1 flying bomb in the Royal Albert Dock – she still bears the marks of this attack today.

After the war, Challenge continued in service and was the last steam tug to serve on the Thames.

She was acquired by the Dunkirk Little Ships Restoration Trust in 1993 for restoration to steam, and in 2005 she returned to Dunkirk for the first time since the 1950s.

Challenge has been under private ownership since 2020.

A tug at sea

Challenge will be taking part in numerous festivals and regattas during 2024. Credit: Margaret Flo-McEwan

In 2021, Challenge relocated to the Medway where she has proved to be a popular attraction at the annual Queenborough Boat Festival with hundreds of visitors coming onboard for guided tours.

In 2024, the steam tug will be attending two international events – Dordrecht in Steam and D-Day 80 in Normandy, incorporating live public displays and real-time social media updates, as well as participating in local festivals around the Thames Estuary for the remainder of the summer.

2024 marks 100 years of the Brixham Trawler, Provident.

National Historic Ships UK named the vessel Operational Flagship of the Year 2024 in recognition of plans to celebrate her centenary with a return cruise from Scotland to Brixham, bringing together ex-crew and other surviving Brixham trawlers, as well as ongoing public engagement and social media activity throughout the season.

Provident was built by Saunders & Co at Galmpton on the River Dart, one of the last trawlers to be built for working under sail.

A wooden boat with red sails

Provident will be celebrating her 100th anniversary at the Brixham Heritage Regatta on 25-26 May 2024. Credit: National Historic Ships UK

She is of the medium-sized Mule class with a gaff-ketch rig. She fished for six years, with a crew of three men and a boy, and was then sold to an American, Captain R H Lagarde, who appointed the designer Morgan Giles to convert her to a yacht.

Provident had three more owners in the West Country, during which time she had an engine fitted.

She spent the war years on the Helford River in Cornwall. In 1951 she was purchased by John Bayley who, with Provident, founded the Island Cruising Club (ICC).

She continued under club ownership until 1971 when the newly formed Maritime Trust bought her and chartered her back to the ICC so that she could continue her sailing career.

After a major refit, she was recommissioned in May 1991. She was subsequently used for sail training in the West Country and in 2012, participated in the Avenue of Sail at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Since May 2022, Provident has been owned and operated by Angels Share Sailing Holidays.

She is now based in Oban and the Argyll region, and operates classic sailing holidays around the Scottish islands.

A large sailing vessel - part of the National Historic Ships UK fleet - moored against a harbour wall

Lady Daphne was part of the Thomas Watson Shipping fleet. Credit: Peter Hunt

The Static Flagship of the Year 2024 was awarded to the spritsail barge, Lady Daphne.

Based at Charlestown Harbour in Cornwall, the barge was built by Short Brothers, Rochester, for Thomas Watson Shipping Ltd, and named after the owner’s eldest daughter at her launch in 1923.

Amongst the very few wooden barges built after the First World War, she operated as a coasting barge for half a century, carrying cargoes such as china clay, Portland Stone, cement and grain between East and South Coast ports.

Lady Daphne has had several lucky escapes in her life, including being shipwrecked on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly in 1927, being struck by a tramp steamer on the Thames and nearly capsizing in Ipswich Docks during the Great East Coast tidal surge of January 1953.

A large wooden ship moored in a harbour at sunset

Lady Daphne is now based in historic Charlestown Harbour in Cornwall. Credit: Stuart Opie

In 1975, she was re-rigged and converted to a promotional and charter barge at Maldon by her new owners, Taylor Woodrow Ltd, and returned to St Katharine Docks in London where she operated for a further 50 years.

She mainly cruised on the Thames but also ventured further afield for events such as barge matches and Cowes Week, being entered in races each year with some success.

Since 1996, she has been in private ownership with the latest transfer of ownership in 2016.

In 2023 – Lady Daphne‘s centenary – the Friends of Lady Daphne won the Marsh Volunteer of the Year – Group award at the National Historic Ships UK Awards.

The spritsail barge was named the Static Flagship of the Year 2024 in recognition of the extensive planned programme of events which include open days, floating fayres, music and quiz nights, artists’ studios and even the launch of the vessel’s own ale and spirit range.

Enjoyed reading Flagships of the Year announced by National Historic Ships UK?

A subscription to Practical Boat Owner magazine costs around 40% less than the cover price.

Print and digital editions are available through Magazines Direct – where you can also find the latest deals.

PBO is packed with information to help you get the most from boat ownership – whether sail or power.

        • Take your DIY skills to the next level with trusted advice on boat maintenance and repairs
        • Impartial in-depth gear reviews
        • Practical cruising tips for making the most of your time afloat

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter