Ullswater Yacht Club is holding its biggest event of the year this weekend.
The iconic long-distance Lord Birkett Memorial Trophy will feature 170 boats racing down the lake and back on Saturday and Sunday.
The celebration regatta was first raced in 1963 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.
The club has held the prestigious two-day round-the-island race in memory of the ‘Saviour of Ullswater’ every year since then, apart from in 2020 when the pandemic led to its cancellation.
Now the Birkett is back – this year the entry limit has been reduced from 230 to 160, entries were full booked within days of them being released, and ongoing COVID restrictions have led to changes to the on-shore programme and strict safety guidelines for competitors.
Ullswater Yacht Club president John Robinson said: “We are disappointed that The Birkett – a Festival of Sailing to celebrate Lord Birkett’s achievement in saving the lake for public access – cannot be run exactly as in previous years.
“However we aim to ensure that it is as successful as possible within the current restrictions.
“We had intended that this year’s event would be a great way of marking the end of the restrictions on June 21.
“Sadly this was not to be, so we have had to make some late changes to our usual format.
“We will not have the marquee, but will still have a bar and live music on Friday and Saturday evenings, in the open air.
“We are still under COVID restrictions and I ask that everyone respects the need for social distancing and wearing face coverings where necessary.”
The 59th Birkett also has a new main sponsor – Waitings, a Penrith civil engineer company involved in Wind, Water and Waste projects.
A recent major project of theirs is the new bridge at Pooley Bridge on Ullswater that is a replacement for the bridge lost in Storm Desmond in 2015.
The Waitings logo will be on the event stickers on every boat taking part in the event.
One of the biggest 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 Saturday, the boats race from a spectacular mass start right across the lake in front of the clubhouse, 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 Sunday – with both races to count. For anyone wanting to watch from the shore as the boats race down the lake and back, the start times are 1pm on Saturday and 11am on Sunday.