Photo Gallery: Excelsior sets sail from Lowestoft to enjoy her birthday

Most 90 year-olds would settle for a few cards, a slice of cake and seeing loved ones to celebrate their birthday.

But for the Excelsior the ideal way to get in the 90th birthday mood was to plough through the waters of the chilly North Sea.

And as the elegant former fishing smack made her way yesterday from her Lowestoft home to Great Yarmouth for a day out, she was preparing to spread even more joy to a young generation of novice seafarers.

For as the 77ft nonagenarian showed off her sails and top speed of nine knots, the voluntary organisation which maintains and runs her unveiled ambitious plans for her future.

The Excelsior Trust has launched an appeal to raise �250,000 so the historic vessel can undergo long term maintenance and refurbishment.

As part of the launch the trust is inviting schools and children aged 10 and up to become sponsors of the Excelsior.

And as well as the �250,000 appeal the trust is helping even more youngsters discover the joys of seafaring life.

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The trust has forged a strong relationship with the Benjamin Foundation, which provides accommodation and help for young people in the region.

It is hoped that up to 40 young people from the Foundation will go on week long journeys to help build their confidence and teamwork skills.

And it is hoped other youth organisation such as the Prince's Trust, the YMCA and Duke of Edinburgh Scheme will sign up the Excelsior, which over the last 25 years has taken thousands of youngsters out to sea.

Geoffrey Copeman, the chairman of the Excelsior Trust, hoped as many people and groups as possible signed up to support the appeal and help the trust's aim of boosting young people's lives.

He said: 'We all see the Excelsior as a bit of kit to help young people.

'The Benjamin Foundation has said that five days on her is as beneficial as six weeks at the foundation.

'When young people come aboard they may be a bit reluctant to get involved in helping to sail her – but after five days they are all proud to say: 'This is our ship' to anyone who asks them.

'In these times of cuts to services the Excelsior is so cost effective in helping young people.

'We are seeking �250,000 for major long term work.

'The future operation and maintenance of this unique and great ship still depends on our past loyal supporters.

'But now we must attract new investors and supporters to help keep up this wonderful ship.'

The trust is also looking to boost funds by contacting schools and businesses to see if they want to charter her for trips.

David Joll, who is leading the commercial drive, said: 'I am so enthusiastic about the Excelsior Trust.

'To combine keeping such a fine, historic vessel afloat with giving so many young people team building fun simply has to be a project well worth supporting.'

Schools who become Friends of the Excelsior Trust will be able to arrange visits when she is moored in Ipswich and Lowestoft. Pupils and students will then also get concessions in charter costs if they want to sail on her. Children aged from 10 and up who sign up as a Junior Friends will receive news updates, be allowed to visit the ship and attend social events.

For further information visit or call 0845 308 2323.

The same contact details can be used for anyone interested in becoming a volunteer or wishing to charter the Excelsior.