Rallying cry to to keep historic Suffolk training yacht on the seas

Historic racing yacht Leila under sail. Picture: Anglian News Agency

Historic racing yacht Leila under sail. Picture: Anglian News Agency - Credit: Archant

Would-be sailors have been warned they need to be proactive about finding funding to keep a historic sail training yacht on the seas as Lottery backing comes to an end.

The 126-year-old Lowestoft-based Leila yacht has enjoyed support from the Big Lottery Fund to provide young crews with an opportunity to sail.

But the funding ends in November and the challenge is to find alternative funding to help the Trust that runs Leila, which moors at Lowestoft’s South Pier, to keep her at sea in 2019.

While he said there would still be “still be plenty of opportunities for local people to get funded sailing”, skipper David Beavan, from Southwold, warned: “If groups want to sail next year, now that the Lottery programme has finished, they are going to have to be more pro-active as we will have to find funding over the winter.

“I had hoped that Lowestoft and Yarmouth young people would be running the boat by now, but the take-up has been a little disappointing and not as good as we had hoped.

“Sometimes it is the people who would most benefit from this experience who are least likely to volunteer, through low self-esteem for example.

“And we have also found it difficult to find people to lead the groups on voyages. Schools and youth services are struggling to staff extra curricular activities and the burden of paperwork and form-filling required for under 18’s has simply become too onerous.

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“I sometimes wonder what we are doing to our young talent with all this lack of investment of our time and care.”

Mr Beavan admitted 2018 was a “difficult year” for the 126-year-old racing cutter - even though the season ended on a high with a prize-winning finish.

Leila came first in class and second overall in the race from Chatham to Gosport in August - but perhaps more importantly, they were awarded the friendship trophy by the other young crews for their sociability.

The gaff-rigged boat hit rough water off Dover and blew their large jib sail.

Worse was to follow - near the finish, the yard topsail fell down as the halyard parted, but the young crew managed to keep sailing - and winning.

Their Tall Ships campaign suffered a serious blow when the engine broke down on the way to Holland.

Leila had to get into Den Helder under sail and wait a week for repairs but they managed to catch the fleet up in Norway and were running second in class when a gale hit and they had to hove-to for the night - and then the wind then died.

Earlier in 2018 they hit rough water leaving a festival in Ostend and dislodged some caulking which caused a leak. Sailing operations had to be suspended as the boat had to come came out of the water for re-caulking.

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