Case Study: Britannia Sailing Trust

1st May, 2022

To see all the Rebuilding Heritage Case Studies, click here.

Photo credit: Jon Worral


Founded in 2014 by Sam and Vicki Samuels, Britannia Sailing Trust is dedicated to advancing Britain’s maritime heritage, raising awareness of the fragility of our oceans and bringing the experience of sailing and maintaining a historic vessel to disadvantaged people throughout the UK.

The current goal is to complete the restoration of the Class 1 East Coast Smack, Britannia. This vessel is now 107 years old and is the last functional example of her type.

The Samuels have grown the Trust steadily over the last few years, recruiting trustees and a loyal crew of volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 88. The Trust is supported by private donations and, more recently, Heritage Lottery funding.

After restoration works are completed in 2023, Britannia will take to the seas once more. She will traverse the coastline of the whole of the British Isles, connecting deprived coastal communities and offering a range of adventurous, imaginative and life-changing voyages to the people who ordinarily find it hard to access these kinds of experiences.

The Trust also plans to plant a mixed native woodland to contribute to eco-system restoration and to serve as a gift to future generations of boatbuilders, ensuring that sustainably grown timber of the highest quality will be available with which to build and maintain traditional sailing ships such as Britannia for many centuries to come.


“The Rebuilding Heritage programme came at exactly the right time for us to make best use of the support on offer, and has given us the confidence to make progress with more understanding of issues; to face difficulties and tackle areas of concern.

“Asking for help is getting easier!

“I am sure that the support we had helped us to make a successful Heritage Lottery fund application this time, having had a bid rejected previously, so we will always be grateful for that!”



Like many heritage charities, Britannia Sailing Trust found itself heavily impacted by the early lockdowns of the pandemic. Work on the ship ground to a halt as their mainly elderly volunteers went into shielding. While it had previously relied mainly on private donations, the urgency of the restoration works and changes to normal funding pathways as a result of the Pandemic encouraged the Trust to apply to the Culture Recovery Fund.

They were successful, but still in urgent need of fundraising advice in order to navigate the changing public-sector funding environment and identify new income streams. The Trust felt that they might be perceived as too small to warrant investment from donors and funding bodies, despite their considerable experience, success in attracting volunteers and obvious passion for their work.

Support Received

Rebuilding Heritage offered support following three successful applications, providing for two trustees:

Round 1 – October 2020

Round 2 – December 2020

Round 4 – March 2021

Britannia Sailing Trust accessed:

1-2-1 Support: Business (Creative United), Communications Strategy (Media Trust), Fundraising (Chartered Institute of Fundraising)

Group training: Financial Literacy (Creative United)

Other: Rebuilding Heritage Webinars

Learning Outcomes & New Directions

Business Planning
In their business planning sessions, Britannia Sailing Trust began to discuss developing a business plan. As they progressed with their NHLF bid, however, they diverted attention to supporting the operational side of their bid. They also worked on developing a succession plan for the Trust, which included identifying a suitable location for this historic vessel as well as recruiting new people.

In the fundraising sessions, it was noted that the founding trustees were not documenting the time they invested in developing the Trust (writing funding bids, gathering evidence, monitoring projects, managing people).

As the focus of the charity has expanded to encompass learning and environmental objectives in addition to restoration, new partnerships were discussed and how to co-develop bids to support shared objectives. The Trust accordingly created a sponsorship offer for businesses and began to disseminate this.

The Trust also developed skills in presenting their work for different audiences, telling the story of their project and began planning their year in relation to national and international heritage celebrations, as well as environmental awareness events. The founding trustees recognised that they were not comfortable ‘blowing their own trumpets’ and have sought new volunteers to help promote the charity and bring in new ideas.

Furthermore, they are working hard to communicate what pro-bono support they would like from businesses (via CSR offers) and what volunteers might expect from working with them. This clear communication is helping them to attract the right people to support to their work and learn from the older trustee’s skills and experience.


This case study was adapted from those included in the Rebuilding Heritage External Evaluation by Antrobus & Armitage.

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