THE leadership of the Mayflower’s captain on its “treacherous” sail across the Atlantic ocean in 1620 has been hailed as the reason the monumental voyage was a success by a history buff.

The historic Mayflower - captained by former Harwich resident Christopher Jones - took the Pilgrim Fathers to the New World, known today as the United States of America, nearly 400 years ago.

With 400th anniversary celebrations starting tonight(FRIDAY) at Harwich’s Illuminate Festival, Harwich resident and history enthusiast Richard Oxborrow said it was the crew on the voyage and the “compassion” of Jones which is the most important part of the ship’s story.

Mr Oxborrow, who has researched the Mayflower in depth, said: “It’s the voyage itself which is important - the ship was just an important piece of wood.

“It was really the people who were important.”

He said residents have become “obsessed” with where the ship was built and where she ended up, but he believes she was most likely scrapped at some point.

“The Mayflower could have been built anywhere on the east coast between Aldeburgh, in Suffolk, and Leigh-on-Sea,” he added.

“A lot of people think she could of been built in Harwich as that is where the captain is from.”

Jones lived in Harwich, where he acquired his seafaring skills growing up.

Mr Oxborrow said: “He seemed like a very compassionate man, but it is really hard to tell. He had a reputation for looking after people.

“Throughout the whole story of the Mayflower voyage we can see Jones was successful because he stayed the first winter with the colony in America.

“There were about 30 men in the crew, and quite a few were from Harwich or based in Harwich in some point.”

During the voyage a main beam of the ship broke in the Atlantic, and instead of turning back it was repaired and the crew kept sailing.

Mr Oxborrow said: “That must have been quite a moment, and a disaster, but once they sorted that, it must have galvanised everyone as a team.

“The only thing most people don’t realise is she ended up quite further north than she should be.

“But when they arrived they then signed the Mayflower Compact which is a simple form of democracy.

“They came to America to start their own colony, and that is what the Americans love about the story.”