The Jumbo – A Renaissance in St Ives, with Jonny Nance

Musician, boat-builder, sailor extraordinaire and all-round renaissance man, Jonny Nance


Ebenezer is delighted to welcome the amazing Jonny Nance and his Jumbos! Jonny has fired the imagination of his community and won the admiration of his peers by reinventing the marvellous Jumbo and, in doing so, bringing back traditional boat-building skills and reinvigorating the old spirit of St.Ives. So the Jumbo, a thing of beauty in itself, has far greater significance than just any old boat – it is an instrument of regeneration and a symbol of all that hidden potential that lies ready & waiting in the hearts of all our communities.

Most people associate St.Ives with the Tate and the artists who brought international recognition to what many consider to be a prosperous tourist town.

Beneath the prestigious façade, the reality for many residents is rather different. An over-dependence on tourism has taken its toll. St.Ives has surrendered its former residential heart to second home ownership and so the close-knit community that still existed 50 years ago has dispersed - and with it the memories and experience of an illustrious maritime heritage and fishing industry.

In 2005, in an attempt to kindle memories and an awareness of this maritime heritage, Jonny Nance launched a replica St.Ives ‘punt’ he had just completed into the harbour. Struck by the warmth and scale of the response from the dwindling waterfront community, he realised that the skill of traditional boatbuilding could have a new social purpose. He decided to create a racing class of ‘jumbos’ - small boats from the heyday of fishing which were unique to St.Ives - in a bid to regenerate the harbour and a community in decline.

In 2007, for the first time in over 100 years a ‘Jumbo’ was launched in St.Ives harbour. Readers of the magazine Classic Boat voted the ’jumbo’ 24th out of the world’s top 50 classic boats and yet this humble craft was virtually unknown - even in St.Ives - before the project began.

At the Ebenezer, with the aid of numerous photos, Jonny will describe the process that lead to this decision; the research, construction and sailing characteristics of the jumbo and the extraordinary achievements of The St.Ives Jumbo Association which he set up to manage their use.

In a few short years the Association has become a force for positive change and social cohesion within the community which has come to regard the jumbo as a symbol of its maritime heritage.

The Association has introduced scores of people to lug-rigged sailing and is now a registered charity with over 250 members from very mixed backgrounds and nationalities.


Jonny Nance

Raised in St.Ives, Jonny is the grandson of two remarkable men associated with the town: one was R. Morton Nance who has been described as ‘one of the very fathers of modern maritime research’ and ‘the revered leader of the Cornish Revival’ whilst the other was the potter, Bernard Leach. Jonny is therefore a mix of both the indigenous local population and the arty incomers (social groups which, to this day, remain largely divided) which offers him a unique insight into this extraordinary town.

Having gained a degree in Fine Art Jonny remained in Falmouth embarking on a precarious career as a shipwright, cidermaker, sailor and eventually as captain. Most noteably having researched and rigged a replica of Columbus’ Nina in Brazil, together with a crew of 10, Jonny sailed 4,500 miles to Costa Rica on her maiden voyage to participate in a Ridley Scott movie. – but that’s another story.

2012Martin Keeley