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A life on the ocean wafers: Sir Boyd Tunnock to lead Clyde flotilla to raise thousands for Scotland’s lifeboats

© Angus Blackburn/Scottish FieldSir Boyd Tunnock and one of his famous teacakes with crew on St Abbs lifeboat
Sir Boyd Tunnock and one of his famous teacakes with crew on St Abbs lifeboat

Scotland’s most famous baker Sir Boyd Tunnock is spearheading a spectacular flotilla raising funds for lifeboat rescuers.

He hopes to be joined by hundreds of other boats when he sails down the Clyde on a boat named after his world-famous caramel wafers.

Tunnock, 88, hopes to raise thousands of pounds for the RNLI with a mass sail doon the watter when he’ll skipper his 38-foot yacht which he christened Lemarac… caramel spelt backwards.

Tunnock, a sailor for nearly 60 years, said: “This will be the biggest massed flotilla the river has ever seen. We’re expecting hundreds of boats. It will be wonderful. A true sight to behold.

“It’s something I have been thinking about doing for 10 years. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the lifeblood of sailing.

“It relies on donations and funds have been depleted because of the pandemic, so we want to raise £21,000 for 2021. There has never been a better time to give something back.”

The spectacle, on Monday, May 31, has been organised by the largest sailing club in Scotland, the Clyde Cruising Club. He said: “I’ve been a member of the club for 50 years so I asked for help to put my plan into action and was delighted when they agreed.”

Tunnock, whose grandfather Thomas opened the family’s first bakery in Uddingston, Lanarkshire in 1890, began sailing in 1962. He said: “The thing about sailing is it puts you in your place.

“You think you’re a champion one day and you can’t do anything wrong. The next day, you can’t do anything right.

“The wind changes. It never blows the same way and that’s the challenge.

“My family have all sailed with me, including my wife. She knew if I was away sailing I wouldn’t be in the factory working.” The Tunnock’s Flotilla will depart from three muster points, at Helensburgh, Kip Marina and Gourock, There will be a salute to the RNLI at 2pm.

Tunnock, whose firm produces more than six million caramel wafers and three-and-a-half million tea cakes a week, said: “We’ll send biscuits to all the marinas and yacht clubs.

“What could be better than eating our biscuits, helping a good cause, and sailing at the same time?”

His yacht, a Moody 38, is his fifth “Lemarac”. He said: “I’ve had it for 24 years. It’s a cruiser racer, a class two. Class one is the fastest. My yachts have all been called Lemarac since 1970.”

The Clyde Cruising Club is asking participants to sign up and donate via a Just Giving page.

The club’s vice commodore Geoff Crowley said: “Sir Boyd is a great supporter of the RNLI and he’s also a great one for dreaming up ideas to raise money.

“The original plan was to hold the sail past in May last year, but the pandemic put paid to that. In a similar way to the NHS being our unsung heroes, the RNLI also quietly works away at saving lives. We wanted to say thank you to the RNLI volunteers who turn out of their beds at any hour their pager goes… and set off to rescue someone in any weather.

“It costs a lot to build that organisation, and then even more to run and maintain it. The flotilla is a great way to be together and to make a donation while keeping our distance socially.

“We hope to have a great display of sailing yachts, motor launches, sailing dinghies and all manner of watercraft.” Alison Byers, of the RNLI in Scotland, said: “We’re very grateful to the Clyde Cruising Club and to Boyd Tunnock for organising the Tunnock’s Flotilla and, in turn, raising vital funds.

“It will be a really lovely spectacle after a year of lockdowns and we’re excited to see it going ahead and people out enjoying the water.”

How to watch

There are three points along the route where spectators can view the flotilla at a social distance:

Kip, on the beach front along Lunderston bay, on the A770, to the entrance to Kip Marina.

Helensburgh: anywhere on the front and near Helensburgh pier.

Gourock: Anywhere between Gourock Pool and the Western Ferry terminal at McInroy’s Point, and centred on the Royal Gourock Yacht Club building.

More information on how to join or watch the flotilla or donate at