Cumbria Crack

Lord Birkett’s granddaughter to attend Ullswater Yacht Club’s biggest event of the year

Birkett Start 2017 by Paul Hargreaves

[U]LLSWATER Yacht Club is going back in time in the run-up to its biggest event of the year, the Lord Birkett Memorial Trophy this weekend, July 7 and 8.

The club is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and members have been enjoying looking back at its history, collecting memories and old photographs, including pictures from the Birkett which was first raced in 1963, five years after the founding of the club.

The long distance event was established 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. Every year since then, the club has held the prestigious two-day round-the-island race in memory of the ‘Saviour of Ullswater.’

Lord Birkett and Victoria Cliff Hodges, 8. Picture taken 1959.

The club is delighted that Victoria Cliff Hodges, Lord Norman Birkett’s granddaughter, will be attending the event and presenting the sought-after Silver Salver to the winner at the prizegiving on the Sunday. Victoria, who lives in Oxfordshire, has also been adding to the club’s collection of old photographs with pictures taken in the 40s and 50s of Norman Birkett and his family holidaying in Cumbria. Until recently the only photograph club members had seen of Lord Norman Birkett shows him in his judge’s wig.

Norman Birkett in Cumbria in 1947

Victoria recalls how her grandparents used to love to come to the Ullswater area in the 1940s and 1950s, and they had great family holidays walking and sailing. She has not been to Ullswater since she was a child and is really looking forward to the event. The present Lord Birkett (Tom) cannot attend this year’s Birkett as he is abroad on a filming assignment.

“We are proud to welcome Victoria to the Birkett and hope she enjoys experiencing this unique event in honour of her grandfather,” said Commodore Rick Boyce.

Lord Norman Birkett entering the House of Lords in 1962 to give his famous speech on saving Ullswater. He died two days later.

One of the most spectacular sailing events in the North, the Birkett has won Cumbria Tourism’s Event of the Year Award, and was rated number eight in the top 50 ‘must do’ sailing regattas by Yachts & Yachting magazine. On Saturday, they 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 Sunday – with both races to count. Entries are limited to 230.

The winner will not only receive the sought-after Birkett Silver Salver but also a night’s bed and breakfast at the prestigious Sharrow Bay Hotel, UYC’s next door neighbour.

And non-racers can get a piece of the on-the-water action on a special three-hour Birkett Cruise organised by Ullswater ‘Steamers’. Passengers on the exclusive charter will board at Pooley Bridge Pier at 12.30pm on Saturday, July 7, and the steamer will stand by off the UYC clubhouse so that they can experience the drama of the 1pm mass start by 230 boats on a line which stretches the full width of the lake. A UYC member will give a commentary as the steamer follows the fleet.

“The Birkett Cruise has become a traditional feature of the event and we are delighted that Ullswater ‘Steamers’ are giving the families and friends of racers as well as anyone who wants to experience the drama of the race, the chance to get involved,” said Commodore Rick Boyce.

“The racing boats make for a spectacular sight all along the lake, for anyone wanting to watch the race from the shore, the start times are 1pm on Saturday, July 7, and 11am on Sunday, July 8.”

Book for the Birkett Cruise direct with the steamer company at tel 017684 82229.

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