Southwold historic vessel work hopes for Olympic voyage

A historic lady of the high seas is set for an Olympic debut thanks to the efforts of a north Suffolk trust and boatyard.

An appeal fund to restore the 119-year-old Leila, a Victorian gaff cutter, is nearing its final stages with only �6,000 needed to finish the work at Southwold's Harbour Marine Services.

And as the funds continue to roll in, the her owners the Leila Sailing Trust is preparing ambitious plans to help celebrate the Leila's 120th birthday next year with a trip to the London Olympic games.

It is hoped the Leila will be ready after a three-year restoration project to take her place on the River Thames for the opening ceremony of the biggest sporting event of 2012 - and return to her original home.

The EDP was allowed exclusive access to the restoration work being carried out on the elegant vessel. The visit comes six months after the launch of the appeal to raise �35,000 to ensure the restoration is completed.

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In 2008 the Leila sailing trust started the restoration project and before this year's appeal had spent �90,000 on restoring the yacht to its former glory.

Once the work is finished the Leila Sailing Trust will use the fifth oldest sailing yacht in the UK to take youngsters from Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth out to sea to help build their confidence and skills.

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As well as donations flooding into the appeal the trust has been boosted by people volunteering to work in the Leila at Harbour Marine Services.

Colin Warboys, chairman of the Leila Sailing Trust said: 'The appeal is going fantastically well. It just shows that even in a time of economic difficulties people are prepared to help something that is of value to them. It is now the final push.'

The Leila was built in 1892 by F Wilkinson of London. Rod Bull, secretary of the trust, said: 'It would be very special for the Leila to be at the games on the Thames where she was built.'

To make a donation visit or call Mr Bull on 0784 2149496.

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