Lowestoft-based historic yacht Leila looks to the future after Tall Ships success

PUBLISHED: 11:16 04 December 2017 | UPDATED: 11:16 04 December 2017

Leila at the Halmstad race start. Picture: Richard Sibley

Leila at the Halmstad race start. Picture: Richard Sibley

© Richard Sibley 2017 - All rights reserved

The crew of a historic tall ship is looking to the future after an incredible journey.

The Lowestoft-based Victorian racing cutter Leila sailed in the iconic Tall Ships races in the Baltic Sea earlier this year – and returned home with a trophy.

Celebrating its 125th birthday this year, the yacht’s skipper is already looking to the future with volunteers being sought to help sustain the boat when the Big Lottery funding ends in 2018.

The 42-foot Victorian gaff-rigged cutter – which was the oldest and smallest boat in the fleet – sailed its way to a third-placed finish in the first leg of the race in a class out of 15. They finished fourth overall out of the fleet of 50 Tall Ships – most which came from Baltic countries as well as Scandinavia, with eight boats from the UK.

Lelia is now operated by a charitable trust and five years ago was discovered rotting away on a Suffolk river. But after countless hours of work and an investment of more than £100,000, she has been lovingly restored.

Skipper David Beavan, of Southwold, was joined on board for the race by Simon Wiseman, of Great Yarmouth YMCA and George Ray from Ipswich. Mr Wiseman said: “This has really opened my eyes to what I can do in life.”

With 2018 being the last year of Lottery-funded voyages along the East Anglian coast, bookings are now being taken for a five-day RYA competent crew course on board. Normally Leila’s only takes bookings from youth organisations, schools and colleges but next year the opportunity is being offered to local individuals and family groups.

Mr Beavan said: “We find that schools and youth groups cannot afford the cost of supplying a leader under government cuts, so want family groups of, perhaps two adults and four children to apply. We will also be running some voyages for over-18’s to come unaccompanied. The Leila Trust is preparing for the loss of the Lottery support but it means we will not be able to afford full-time crew and need local volunteers to act as mates on voyages as well as work on maintenance and help run the Trust.

“It is vital that we recruit more local volunteers to keep Leila sailing.”

Volunteers can book now for a voyage to a festival in Ostend, Belgium in May and a classic yacht rally based at the marina in Levington on the River Orwell in June by contacting the skipper via email

For more information on Leila and the Leila Sailing Trust, visit

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