Despite her enormous success over five decades, the Shrimper didn't start life as a commercial project - Roger Dongray designed her in 1978 as a plywood one-off for his own use. It wasn't long before local carpenter and builder Mike Hughes looked in on the building, liked what he saw and offered to help finish the first boat.
Potential buyers started queuing up as soon as this pretty little gaffer was launched so Roger granted Mike a licence to build ten boats in ply. Three were sailing, including Mikes own boat, Shearwater No 6, before Cornish Crabbers decided she'd slot into their range between the 16ft Coble and Crabber Mk1 (a 24' 'big sister' of the Shrimper), which they were already building in glassfibre. Cornish Crabber's first boat - Shrimper No. 11 - was launched in May 1980.
A small fleet of Shrimpers were soon sailing at Rock and in 1981 John Ashworth (Daisy No 36) formed the Shrimper Owners Association and became the first SOA Nat. Hon Sec., continuing to lead and guide the SOA until 1999. This enthusiastic group did much to promote the splendid cruising and racing attributes of the Shrimper and soon Falmouth week became a regular venue for those local Owners and those wishing to trail their boats and join in with the fun.
John defined the Shrimper's class racing rules which first incorporated the motto "Fast but Fair".
National Shrimper Week was conceived in 1984, and was the first of many to be held in Falmouth in the early years. Soon Shrimper Weeks were being organised by volunteer owners at many different sailing areas of the UK and in latter years, as owners have become more adventurous, in France, Holland and Denmark. Shrimper Week is a primarily a cruise week, but one day is reserved for those owners keen to compete in the 'National Championship' race for the Shrimper Challenge Cup, a trophy donated by John Ashworth in 1981.
In 2015 Cornish Crabbers LLP introduced the Shrimper 21, providing greater accommodation and cockpit space but still preserving the original Shrimper Trailer-Sailer ethos. At the same time all Trailer-Sailers in their range were re-designated Shrimper, making the Crabber 17 the Shrimper 17 and the original Cornish Shrimper now being called Shrimper 19. Owners of all three are eligible to join the SOA.
Today Cornish Shrimpers of all sizes number over 1300, almost all still afloat, with Roger Dongray’s original boat Katy (Shrimper Number 1) still in regular use. (see here for photos) The Shrimper Owners Association has well in excess of 600 members worldwide and thankfully remains, as it was originally conceived, a very relaxed and low key organisation.
Katy (Shrimper Number 1) has recently been refurbished and is afloat and in regular use.
(Click on 'slideshow' once on the Photobucket page for best viewing.)