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Tribute to John and Sheila Robinson

Tribute to John and Sheila Robinson

Right: Sheila in action at the Birkett safety briefing in 2017

Vice Commodore Rick Boyce told members who met at the Roundthorn Hotel, Penrith, to celebrate another successful year at UYC that the couple’s contribution to the Birkett, held every year since 1963, was immeasurable. “They will  be sadly missed and a hard act to follow for the 56th Birkett in 2018,” he added.

He presented the couple with a gift of a voucher for bed and breakfast at the Sharrow Bay Hotel, the club’s next door neighbour. The hotel is a great supporter of the Birkett, donating a bed and breakfast stay for the winner of the prestigious event as well as the use of their safety boat for the weekend. Guests at the hotel on Birkett weekend, which is on July 7 and 8 next year, have a spectacular view of all the racing action as 230 boat sail down the lake.

The Birkett, sailed in memory of Lord Norman Birkett the ‘Saviour of Ullswater’ who prevented the lake from becoming a reservoir, has grown to become one of the most popular long distance races in the country with a cult following of many devoted sailors who return year after year. It is now more than just a race but a Festival of Sailing, is one of Yachts and Yachting magazine’s must-do events and in 2016 was honoured with Cumbria Tourism’s Event of the Year Award. Entries reached a record 231 in 2015 and since then there has been an entry limit of 230, which has always been reached long before race weekend.

Sheila has been involved with the running of the Birkett for almost 30 years, helping with the race box team when Brian Crampton was race officer in around 1990. After that, she joined the safety team on the water when Ken Gill, Elaine Ball, Duncan Findlay and Carl Hallam in turn were the club’s Safety Officers. She became overall Safety Co-ordinator for the Birkett in 2011 and has been there ever since. The current procedures and organisation were all set up under Sheila’s reign. As the event grew, the number of safety craft has increased to 17 boats operating in 10 zones.

John took over as Birkett Co-ordinator in 2010, following the 2009 floods, when the club was operating out of temporary buildings. This created the need for alternative accommodation on site - the marquee/beer tent, which has now become a fixture. The entertainment was changed from just a disco on Saturday evening to live music on Friday and Saturday nights. This has been the main driver in turning the Birkett from a Regatta into a Festival. The growth of the event has created a demand for space, and the club first rented the Birkett Field and then bought it. The event is now so popular that it has become necessary to overflow into the next field.

John said: “We have had excellent support from both within and outside the club. The race management teams have always delivered a superb event, catering has been well up to the mark, and the camping and parking marshals have kept law and order throughout. Special mention must go to our son Craig, who was not only instrumental in getting the beer tent idea off the ground, but has been working behind the bar in the marquee every year since.
“One lesson we learned early on is, never have a marquee with central poles – sailors cannot resist the urge to climb a mast after they have had a few pints!”

Left: The Birkett wins the Cumbria Tourism Event of the Year Award  in 2016

Posted on 08 November 2017 (Archive on 06 December 2017)
Posted by 51  Contributed by 51


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