Historic Suffolk yacht ‘Leila’ completes gruelling 500-mile race on her 125th birthday

PUBLISHED: 12:02 05 December 2017 | UPDATED: 12:02 05 December 2017

Leila set off quickly at the start of the 500-mile race. Picture: RICHARD SIBLEY

Leila set off quickly at the start of the 500-mile race. Picture: RICHARD SIBLEY

© Richard Sibley 2017 - All rights reserved

A historic yacht based in Lowestoft has sailed her first ever ‘tall ships’ race trophy from the Baltic for her 125th birthday.

Youngsters George Ray from Ipswich and Simon Wiseman from Great Yarmouth were among the crew that sailed ‘Leila’, the fifth oldest sailing yacht in the country, from Lowestoft to the race start in Sweden in June.

Leila stormed off at the front of the fleet, taking three days to cover the 500-mile course to reach the finishing line in the Gulf of Finland, near Russia.

Despite being the oldest and smallest ship to take part in the event, Leila’s crew managed to come third in class out of 15 and fourth overall out of the fleet of 50 tall ships.

The Victorian racing yacht had been discovered rotting in a backwater near Yarmouth and rescued by skipper David Beavan from Southwold.

She underwent a five-year, £150,000 renovation programme at the town’s Harbour Marine Services boatyard with most of the work being carried out by volunteers, led by David, before being re-launched as sail-training boat in 2012.

Next year will be the last of lottery funded voyages Leila will take along the East Anglian coastline, and booking are now being taken. The Leila Trust is looking to recruit more volunteers to crew the boat as well as helping to keep the vessel ship-shape.

Normally Leila only takes bookings from youth organisations, schools and colleges but next year the opportunity is being offered to local individuals and family groups.

“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,” said Mr Beavan.

“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 in 2019 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 - she is a fascinating boat to sail, especially if we wind her up to race mode at full sail and speed.”

For more information and to volunteer visit

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