Southwold: Restored racing yacht Leila has eventful start to new career

Yacht Leila restored in Southwold; Leila sailing

Yacht Leila restored in Southwold; Leila sailing - Credit: Archant

An historic racing yacht restored on the Suffolk coast had an eventful and challenging start to her new career as a sail training boat.

The 42ft long Leila, skippered by Southwold sailing instructor David Beavan, has been competing in Tall Ships races in the Baltic Sea. Adventures afloat have included a blown-up engine, seasickness and a brush with the law in Poland.

The engine on the 121-year-old gaff-rigged cutter blew up before the first competition off Copenhagen – sparking a race against time to get her back in the hunt. The crew – all youngsters from the region who had raised funds to crew on the yacht – were transferred to another boat.

With the help of a team of mechanics Mr Beaven, who oversaw the four-year £170,000 restoration of the Leila at a Southwold boatyard, found a replacement engine in just three days, allowing them to head off to Helsinki to catch up with the rest of the fleet.

“There were 30 knot winds blowing and the seas were building nastily so we hove to for four hours, which meant a couple of the crew suffered seasickness,” he said. “But as the winds subsided and the crew recovered we were able to start racing again and catch up – eventually finishing 9th out of 26 boats in our class and 36th overall.”


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The drama continued as the Leila arrived at the Polish town of Szczecin on the Odor River, when a police boat tried to stop the yacht by cutting across its bows, only for her bowsprit to damage the officers’ blue flashing light.

The Leila – built in 1892 and the fifth oldest sailing yacht in the country – is due to return to her home port of Lowestoft on August 20. Four days later she will head to the Ipswich Maritime Festival before racing to the Solent.

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There are still places on board for a willing crew and Mr Beaven hopes that youngsters aged between 12 and 16 will be happy to join. Places on board cost £420.

See www.leila2C.org for more details.

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