Flotilla of Dutch ships sailing into Yarmouth at weekend

AN historic flotilla of nine yachts is set to sail into Great Yarmouth on Saturday to mark the centenary of a feted Dutch herring lugger.

Although the giant-sailed Balder is too old to travel the 100 miles from her home in Vlaardingen in Holland an impressive fleet of sailing and motor yachts will cross the stretch - renewing bonds between the two ports.

The ships set sail today and face a challenging, non-stop trip to the East Coast carrying a symbolic cargo of typical Vlaardingen objects, products and artefacts.

Once moored in Yarmouth the crews will search for traces of the past relationship between the two towns - written in Yarmouth’s architecture, traditions, art and crucially the Dutch-designed harbour which allowed the fishing trade to flourish.

As well as re-connecting with their past when luggers from Holland descended on the town in the glory years of the herring industry, organisers are keen to celebrate modern similarities.

A spokesman said: “Next to a shared history in fishing, Great Yarmouth and Vlaardingen also share some things in the present. The communities have more or less the same social and demographic structure, both places have flourishing and economically important harbours, and maybe the most interesting common aspect both towns are gateways to precious and extensive wetlands, nature reserves and networks of lakes and rivers.

“Vlaardingen is the main entrance to the beautiful Vaart and Midden-Defland, while through Great Yarmouth sea-going yachts can sail into the beautiful Norfolk Broads.”

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A delegation from Vlaardingen council will lead the fleet in style on board another local fishing lugger the SV Gallant.

Members will be met by Yarmouth mayor Barry Coleman in full regalia, carrying out what will be one of his last duties during his year in office.

The flotilla is set to arrive at around 11am with a welcome from Lydia Eva - Yarmouth’s answer to the Balder.

James Steward, area museums officer, said without the Dutch there would have been no North Sea fishing industry the way we know it today.

“It was the Dutch who invented the fish curing process and their influence on sea fishing was more significant than the Scots.

“In the 17th and 18th century the Yarmouth fishing industry was mainly Dutch and at one time there were over 40 brewers in the town serving just the Dutch fleet, which gives you some idea of the scale of it,” he said.