Published 18:56 on 31 Dec 2020
The season may have started 11 weeks later than planned but 2020 was a memorable sailing year for members of Ullswater Yacht Club.
Just as the club was preparing to open for the 2020 season on Saturday, March 21, the whole country was plunged into pandemic lockdown and the site gates did not open to members until June 6.
At first the club site was open for four days a week, Friday to Monday, visitors were not allowed and the clubhouse was closed. Club officials and staff had put a great deal of work into preparing the site to make it safe for members to take part in a limited range of activities, in line with Government guidelines. Members were able to go leisure sailing under a strict 'buddy' system in which at least two boats had to be on the water together and they had to sail within sight of the clubhouse. The need for social distancing meant that the biggest turnout over that first weekend was from single-handers, mainly Lasers and club officials were pleased to see so many young members on the water in their Toppers.
Families from one household took advantage of the guidelines by going sailing together. Andrew Bailey from Carlisle and his daughter Honore were delighted to be back on the water in their Laser 2000. So were the whole Thornton family from Penrith Charles and his wife Naomi with sons Joshua and Caleb who sail a Laser Stratos.
Members were pleased to finally be there, the lake had never looked so beautiful and getting afloat was such 'good medicine.' The procedures worked well and club officials decided on a seven days a week opening from June 22.
Two weeks later, the club would have been holding its biggest event of the year, the two-day long-distance Lord Birkett Memorial Trophy, which had been cancelled in April. UYC marked the 58th Birkett by flying the club's flags from the clubhouse all weekend and members paid their own tribute to the 'Saviour of Ullswater' on Saturday, July 4, by sailing two miles down the lake to Kailpot Crag where there is a memorial to Lord Birkett and back.
The celebration regatta, in honour of Lord Norman Birkett who died two days after making a successful speech in the House of Lords which prevented Ullswater from becoming a reservoir, was first held in 1963. Every year the club has held the prestigious two-day round-the-island race in his memory. It has become a festival of sailing and so popular with racers from all over the country that a limit of 230 boats is been placed on entries.
The Birkett is always on the first full weekend of July so the 59th will be on July 3 & 4, 2021, and the club is looking forward to welcoming all regulars and new competitors to a bigger and better event.
By the weekend of July 18 & 19, the Government guidelines had been relaxed sufficiently to allow for club racing.
"It was so good to see the boats out racing again after so long," said UYC Sailing Manager, Edmund Clarke, of Penrith, who helped to co-ordinate a new 2020 UYC racing programme which ensured the safety of competitors and race officials. To help with social distancing in the dinghy park, racing was split, with the slow handicap fleet and the youths & juniors being held on Saturday, and on Sunday it was the turn of the fast handicap fleet and the cruisers. This format continued throughout the season until the end of October with a summer series and an autumn series for all fleets.
The juniors, mainly in Toppers, were there every Saturday to race and a total of 24 boats took part throughout the season. The slow handicap fleet, mainly Lasers also attracted big fleets and had very close racing with 38 boats in the summer series and 31 boats in the autumn. On Sundays in the fast handicap fleet, the Flying Fifteens had a great turnout all year. A total of 24 boats raced in the summer series and 19 in the autumn series.
For the cruisers, the numbers were best for the special trophy races, the President's Trophy, the Pegagus Trophy and the Hotel Cup. The Friday POETS (Push Off Early Tomorrow's Saturday) points series for cruisers, with 17 boats taking part and 11 qualifiers, and Masters Week, 14 boats and 10 qualifiers were also a great success.
The popular Wednesday night Twilight series started in July and was well supported with a total of 42 boats taking part in the 7 races.
The club was unable to welcome visitors to its annual Family Week, from August 10-14, or run sailing courses through its Ullswater Sailing School as in previous years. But more than 80 members were pleased to be able to get together, enjoy each other's company and the chance to make the most of all that Ullswater has to offer in a week of beautiful summer weather.
Organiser, Charlie Thornton, of Penrith, who is UYC's leisure director, was delighted with the success of the event and the way everyone joined in with the spirit of Family Week and the opportunity to have been part of something special. "New friendships have been formed, water skills have been improved and everyone has hopefully left with many happy memories of their time together," he said.
Then on Sunday, August 30, members took part in the club's oldest trophy race. The Island Race was first sailed in 1959 and the event has been held every year since then. The club had been founded the year before and the idea of sailing the full length of the lake, around an island at the other end and back captured the imagination of the enthusiastic members of the new club. The race for the Island Race Trophy is still one of the most popular closed events in the club calendar and despite Covid-19 restrictions to keep members safe, organisers were keen that it should take place.
And on the same day, the club's youngsters were having their own special event, Youth and Junior Fun Day. The highlight of the year at UYC for its junior members is the annual week-long Sail Camp which had been held every year since 1985. Unfortunately it had to be cancelled this year but Sail Camp organisers Kathryn and Steve Potter made up for it with a hugely successful Fun Day.
"We know that many of our youngsters were disappointed that we could not hold Sail Camp this year so we wanted them to have a special day to remember," said Steve Potter.
The junior sailors were still enthusiastic on Saturday, October 20, when they marked the end of their sailing season with the traditional annual 'Nippers Nip' races.
Volunteer instructor Chris Mulholland who worked with the juniors all season said: "Well done to all the UYC youngsters who sailed today and have been out on the water right through the year. Despite all the challenges it's been another great year and brilliant to see new faces in the fleet. We are already starting to plan for 2021 and rest assured we shall be doing all that we can to get you on the water as soon as is possible. As ever a thank you to mums and dads, don't forget kids... you can't do it without them."
Despite having no clubhouse all season, no visitors and the cancellation of all the open events for which the club has become so well known, UYC members can look back on a memorable sailing season. Plans are already in place for a bumper sailing programme for 2021.
Well done to the 2020 UYC winners. All the results are on the UYC website, follow this link:
Slow Handicap. Summer, John Lyons, Laser. Autumn, James Lyons, Laser.
Youth & Juniors. Summer, Violet Simpson, Topper. Autumn, Olivia Dembinska, Tera. Nippers Nip, Alex Leslie, Topper.
Fast Handicap, Summer, Dave & Sue Giles, Flying Fifteen. Autumn, Christian Barnes & Denise Sykes, Flying Fifteen.
Island Race, Keith Lockey & Paul Adams VXOne.
Sprint Races, Jack Neilson, Laser.
Twilight, Keith Lockey, Aero.
Preservation Society Trophy (Dinghy), John Lyons, Laser.
Cruiser, Summer, Mike Egan & Keith McDermott, Etap.
Pegasus Trophy, David Thomson & Chris Taylor, Hunter.
Preservation Society Trophy (Cruiser), David Thomson & Neil Sayer, Hunter.
President's Trophy, Brian Moreton & Bill Bell, Kite.
Hotel Cup, Colin Brown & Neil Thompson, Beneteau.
POETS series, Barrie Cheetham & Parry Coates, Ruffian.
Masters Week, Mike Egan & Keith McDermott, Etap.
Top: Aggie Priestley takes her dad Graham racing in a Topper.
Below: A busy foreshore in August.
- Sue Giles 31.12.20
Last updated 13:45 on 8 April 2021