Leila is in party mood after Southwold launch

A historic and elegant sailing yacht has taken to the water again after a �150,000 restoration project.

Missing just its mast and some fittings, the 119-year-old Leila is now bobbing gently in Southwold harbour.

The Victorian gaff cutter was launched on Thursday with a launch party held at the weekend at the Southwold Sailing Club which was attended by more than 200 people.

Her launch follows a four-year restoration project by the Leila Sailing Trust, which will use the graceful yacht to take young people from the Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth area out to sea from next year.

Saturday's launch party saw the Leila blessed by the Rev Simon Pitcher of the Sole Bay ministry team.

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Her previous owners, the Alison fmaily of Yarmouth, who used to sail her in the 1980s and 1990s, were present as were representatives of three other owners dating back to the 1950s - the Carter-Jonas, Whayman and Pearson families.

Before the party a group of 28 cyclists set out from the Leila on a sponsored bike ride to help raise money for the final part of her restoration.

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The trust needs to raise another �20,000 to fit out and make her seaworthy.

David Beavan, the skipper of the London-built Leila and the spokesman for the sailing trust, said: 'It was a really good day, The weather held out for us.

'It was another step in the restoration, but there is still a lot of work do.'

The Leila's mast is due to be put in place in the next few weeks and it is hoped she will sail to her new home at Lowestoft's Heritage Quay in the autumn,

She is the fifth oldest sailing yacht in the UK on the National Historic Ships Register and was restored at Southwold's Harbour Marine Services, with volunteers putting in countless hours of work.

During restoration there were fears it would not be completed because of widespread rot.

In January 2010 the charitable trust revealed it had run out of money for the work - leading to an appeal to fund more cash, which was thankfully answered by donors.

The Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Historic Ships Register also provided funding for the restoration work.

It is hoped the Leila can also take part in a tall ship race next year.

For information on the Lelia Sailing Trust visit www.leila2c.org

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