Flying the flag for Birkett 2020
Members of award-winning Ullswater Yacht Club would have been enjoying their biggest event of the year, the long-distance Lord Birkett Memorial Trophy, this weekend of July 4 & 5.
For the first time since it was first raced in 1963, 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, has been cancelled. The 58th 'Birkett' was called off in April due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Every year the club has held the prestigious two-day round-the-island race in memory of the 'Saviour of Ullswater.' 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 club will mark the weekend with its own tribute to Lord Birkett by flying the club's flags from the clubhouse all weekend. The club opened to members only for the 2020 sailing season three months late on June 6. The clubhouse and facilities are closed and a series of safety measure are in place. Members can take to the water for leisure sailing.
The quest for the 'Holy Grail' of a Birkett attracts keen sailors from national champions to novices in a huge range of different boats. One of the most spectacular sailing events in the North, the Birkett, winner of a Cumbria Tourism's Event of the Year Award, was rated number eight in the top 50 'must do' sailing regattas by Yachts & Yachting magazine. On the Saturday, the 230 boats race down the lake, a distance of about seven miles, past Kailpot Crag and the plaque to the memory of Lord Birkett, round an island at the southern end, and back. Then they do it all again on the Sunday - with both races to count.
The cancellation of the Birkett has disappointed not only club officials, members and racers from all over the country, but also Lord Norman Birkett's granddaughter Victoria Cliff-Hodges who is a great supporter of the event.
In a special message to the club she said: "July 4 & 5 were firmly in my diary for this year's visit to the Ullswater Yacht Club, with the weekend having become something of an annual ritual for me. The stunning sight of 230 sailing boats lining up across the width of Ullswater is truly remarkable, jostling for the best position at the start of their daily race up and down the lake in all manner of weather conditions.
"It would also have been fun catching up with UYC officers, volunteers and members, plus hundreds more sailors who travel every year from many corners of the UK to take part in this awesome sailing event.
"Sadly, Coronavirus brought the world to a virtual standstill, and put paid to this year's Birkett Trophy. However, it's lovely to know that UYC has now reopened under Covid-19 conditions, with a handful of local members likely to be pottering around and having a good, albeit non-competitive, sail on July 4 & 5, whilst no doubt reflecting on the lake's spectacular surroundings, and the good fortune that Ullswater remains as natural and glorious as it's always been. Roll on a happy and healthy 2021, and next year's Birkett Trophy!"
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.
Pictured: Victoria Cliff-Hodges with UYC Commodore Paul O'Hara at Birkett 2019
- Sue Giles
Last updated 15:34 on 1 December 2020