The Trust

John Wylson - Excelsior Trustee

John Wylson, RIBA – Founder/Vice President


Brought up in the Cinque Port of Rye, John has managed to combine a career as an architect with a love of the sea. Between major projects in London, he used to slip away to sea in the Home Trade, eventually as a mate and then skipper. There are few ports in Britain that John has not entered – with cargoes as varied as talcum powder and case beer! He bought Excelsior in Norway and spent 10 years of his spare time rebuilding the hull, before setting-up the Trust to restore her back to sail. With an in-depth knowledge of traditional materials and techniques, John can fit a futtock or woold a ground rope!

Jamie Campbell - Excelsior Trustee

Jamie Campbell – Chairman


Jamie is a veteran Broads sailor and owner of the classic Broads sailing cruiser “Evening Flight”. He spent 25 years international yacht racing in 505, Flying Dutchman and Dragon classes and made guest appearances in shorthanded long-haul ocean races. Jamie says he “scribbles a bit” but in reality is a published local and maritime author, and was a regular contributor to the much-loved “Anglia Afloat” magazine, usually on topics around a maritime heritage theme. He is also archivist of the Royal Norfolk Suffolk Yacht Club, and International 14 fleet historian.

David Joll – Charter Management Volunteer


David’s spent his whole career in the Food Industry having studied Food Science and Technology.

David joined the Board of Bernard Matthews in 1980 and became Group Managing Director in 1987. Recently retiring as Executive Chairman.  Joining the Trust in 2010, David has always been keen to help as much as he can in enabling young people to sail on board Excelsior due to the profound impact it can have their lives.

Mary Sparrow


Mary spent many years working in education, including eight years as a headteacher, until her health meant she had to find less stressful employment, and she now works alongside her husband Simon in their boatyard, Hippersons in Beccles. Mary was introduced to boats by Simon and has lived on a barge for the last 10 years. She really enjoys being on and around the water and has recently improved her sailing skills. Mary is passionate about providing opportunities for children and young people to experience activities that are not readily available to them. She believes Excelsior provides an amazing adventure, will create memories and open doors for all who sail on her.

Andrew Sherwood


Andrew is HR Director at Bernard Matthews and has a strong interest in the development of young people. This is what particularly excites him about Excelsior and the fantastic opportunity it gives youngsters not just to sail but the lifelong skills such as leadership and teamwork which are so essential in the workplace. Andrew is also a keen, but not terribly good, tennis player and is Chairman of Acle Tennis Club. Andrew is also a Director of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce.

Laurence Vulliamy


Southwold-based Laurence joined The Excelsior Trust in 2019 after a broadcasting career of over 40 years. A wide variety of credits as a documentary and live-broadcast Director and Producer include Question Time and Gardeners’ World for BBCtv and Time Team for Channel 4. For over 20 years Laurence also managed the live coverage of national events for ITV, a period that included the Funeral of Princess Diana in 1997 and the wedding of Prince William in 2011.

Laurence was a Trustee of The Southwold Sailors’ Reading Room for over 10 years, and more recently, was Chairman of a community group, that purchased the redundant Southwold Hospital from The NHS, for the local community’s use.

Denis Costello – Company Secretary


Senior Associate in the Norwich office of national law firm Mills & Reeve, Denis specialises in the property aspects of agriculture and has been helping clients with the buying selling and letting of land for more than twenty years. He has particular expertise in issues relating to minerals and waste management.

Denis is an Associate Member of the Mineral Products Association and the Environmental Services Association. Joining the Excelsior Trust in 2015 Denis has supported the work we do in many ways.

John Irving


John started sailing in muddy Essex creeks at an early age, and progressed into off-shore racing by sailing on a succession of racing dinghies and yachts eventually taking part in many  international offshore events throughout the UK, Europe, and USA.   A member of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, he got thru’ the infamous Fastnet ’79 race having turned a 40ft yacht upside down in the middle of the Irish Sea in storm force conditions.

John turned away offers to sail professionally and pursued a career in management consultancy instead.  He was a volunteer at the London 2012 Olympic sailing regatta assisting competitors both on and off the water.  Now retired he’s still not sure if he made the right decision!

Mary George

Council of Management

Mary’s extensive career in public relations has spanned many genres including the arts, travel and tourism.  She spent two decades working for a mental health charity and realised the value of challenging the horizons of young people who faced difficult situations in their everyday life. Mary promotes the Trust throughout East Anglia and is always seeking out new opportunities to ensure that the Excelsior Experience is available to as many individuals as possible.

Charlie Besant

Council of Management

Charlie started his involvement within sail training onboard Excelsior at the age of 15. Following this, he worked on different sail training vessels and traditional craft gaining qualifications and working his way up the ranks to the position of Skipper. He is now working for Associated British Ports on commercial workboats. Charlie still has a strong interest in youth development and traditional sailing craft, and knows personally the link between the two can be life changing.

If you are a business and would like to know how you can help, please get in touch.


Read more about the other brilliant people who work behind the scenes to make the Excelsior Trust great.