Couple thanked for “immeasurable” contribution to club’s flagship event

Date: Friday 10th November 2017

ULLSWATER Yacht Club has paid tribute to volunteers John and Sheila Robinson for their dedication to the club’s flagship event, the Lord Birkett Memorial Trophy.

John and Sheila, who live near Penrith, have stepped down from their long involvement with the organisation of the event and were honoured for their contribution to its success at the club’s annual dinner and prize-giving.

Vice-commodore Rick Boyce told members, who met at the Roundthorn Hotel, Penrith, to celebrate another successful year at the club, that the couple’s contribution to the Birkett was immeasurable.

“They will be sadly missed and a hard act to follow for the 56th Birkett in 2018,” he added.

He presented them 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 stay for the winner of the prestigious event as well as the use of its safety boat for the weekend. Guests at the hotel on Birkett weekend, which is on 7th and 8th July next year, have a spectacular view of all the racing action as 230 boats sail down the lake and back.

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 following of many devoted sailors who return year after year.

It is now more than just a race, but a festival of sailing, and is one of Yachts and Yachting magazine’s must-do events. In 2016 it won 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 it for almost 30 years, starting by helping with the race box team in around 1990. After that, she joined the safety teams on the water and became overall safety co-ordinator in 2011. The current procedures and organisation were all set up under her 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 — a 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.

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!”