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Lord Birkett Memorial Trophy at Ullswater Yacht Club

by Sue Giles on 3 Jul 1-2 July 2017
Birkett winner Ian Turnbull © Tim Olin /

Musto Skiff sailor Ian Turnbull from Sunderland Yacht Club won the Lord Birkett Memorial Trophy at Ullswater Yacht Club, the first single-handed winner since 2002.

It is only the fifth time that a single-handed boat has won the iconic event which was first raced in 1963 and Ian won the Birkett Silver Salver with a third place on Saturday and a first on Sunday. Consistency in a wide range of conditions was the key to doing well this year with second place going to three times past winner Dave Exley in a RS400 crewed by Nigel Hall (5 and 3) and third place going to Jono Shelley in a Vx One crewed by Graham and Selina Priestley (9 and 2).

The SSW winds on Saturday made for an ideal giant windward leeward course and race officer David Clarke sent the boats to the furthest island, Cherry Holm, and back to the Pooley Bridge end of the lake, returning to a finish at the club. The 230 boats, a huge range of dinghies and cruisers, from 49ers (PY 710) to Fevas (PY 1240) took to the start line, the full width of the lake, in windy conditions with some very strong gusts and the fleet got away at the first attempt.

Passengers on the special Birkett Cruise on the Ullswater 'Steamer' Lady of the Lake, which celebrated its 140th birthday the weekend before, had a spectacular view of the racers as they followed the fleet down the lake.

The 49ers were the first round Cherry Holm, and flew back under spinnaker on strengthening gusts on the downwind leg. Last year's winners Matty and James Lyons of UYC crossed the finishing line first, in a time of just over 1 hour 23 minutes, nearly three minutes ahead of the next 49er, Paul Brotherton and Dennis Karlsson of Glossop SC.

But the challenging gusts proved to be too much for many of the following dinghies, particularly on the downwind leg after the island, with lots of capsizes and the safety crews were kept very busy. Overnight leaders were the Lyons brothers, Paul Brotherton was second and Ian Turnbull third.

On Sunday, the same course was set in lighter winds and the fleet got away under the black flag at the third attempt. The shifting winds led to a tricky beat to Cherry Holm and an equally tricky downwind leg. After a much slower race, Ian Turnbull in his Musto Skiff was up there again and won the race on handicap to take the trophy as well as a special prize of bed and breakfast for two at the Sharrow Bay Hotel, UYC's next door neighbour.

The celebration event 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. Every year since then, the club has held the prestigious two-day long distance race in which boats sail the full length of the lake round an island, and back, in memory of the 'Saviour of Ullswater'.

It has become a Festival of Sailing, with camping on site, live entertainment this year from the Kentucky Cow Tippers and the Fire Kings on Friday and Saturday night, and food all weekend. The Lord Birkett Tea Room masterminded by UYC's own 'Mary Berry', Lilian Adams, offering delicious home-made cakes has become a big on-shore attraction.

The Birkett, which last year won the Cumbria Tourism Event of the Year, has an entry limit of 230 and proved to be so popular that places were filled, with a reserve list, more than a week before the closing date. The club was pleased to welcome a total of 13 past winners who were taking part this year.

Ullswater Yacht Club would like to thank the following for help toward the fleet of safety boats necessary for the event, some with crews - Seaham Divers & friends, Sharrow Bay Hotel, David Clarke, Patterdale Hall, Killington Lake SC, Sea Cadets Kendal, Blackpool & Fleetwood SC and Bernard Clark. We would also like to thank Ovington Boats for hull stickers, Metcalfe Plant Hire of Penrith for high visibility jackets for the safety team and Sharrow Bay Hotel and Ullswater Steamers for their support.

And huge thanks to Birkett co-ordinator John Robinson, David Clarke and his race team, Sheila Robinson and her safety team, Joyce Wilson and her marshalling team and all the other volunteer members of UYC, more than 100 altogether, without them the event would not be possible.

The full results are online at

Overall Results: (top ten)

  1. Ian Turnbull, Musto Skiff, Sunderland YC, 4
  2. Dave Exley and Nigel Hall, RS400, Leigh & Lowton SC, 8
  3. Jono Shelley, Graham and Selina Priestley, VX One, UYC, 11
  4. Paul Brotherton and Dennis Karlsson, 49er, Glossop SC, 11
  5. Simon and Ben Hawkes, Osprey, Wimbleball SC, 14
  6. David Chandler, Dylan Noble and Jamie Hall, VX One, UYC, 17
  7. Matty and James Lyons, 49er, UYC, 19
  8. Hamish Gledhill and Simon Dowse, RS400, West Riding SC, 19
  9. Tony Lewis, Rhys Lewis and Andrew Cutting, VX One, UYC, 22
  10. John Heissig and Nicky Griffin, RS400, Llangorse SC, 34

Class prizes:

  • Musto Skiff: Ian Turnbull, Sunderland YC
  • RS 400: Dave Exley and Nigel Hall, Leigh & Lowton SC
  • Fireball: Darren Fasey and Colin Davis, Staunton Harold SC
  • Flying Fifteen: Mike Preston and David Manifold, Blackpool & Fleetwood SC
  • GP 14: Justin Smith and Andrew McGovern, Tynemouth and Hollingworth SC
  • Laser: Anthony Dawson, UYC
  • RS 200: Alistair and Thomas Coates, Leigh & Lowton SC
  • VX One: Jono Shelley, Graham and Selina Priestley, UYC
  • Albacore: Phillip Smith and Tom Williams, RYA,
  • Cruiser: Robin Barratt, Keith McDermott and Mike Egan, Etap 21i, UYC
  • Blaze: Mark Fearnley, South Windermere SC
  • 2000: James and Jenny McGregor, UYC
  • Tempest: Mike Adams and Paul Kingsley Adams, UYC

  • Ullswater 'Steamers' Trophy (55th boat past Birkett plaque on Saturday): Peter Snowdown and Iona Smith, RS400 Scaling Dam SC
  • Dalemain Trophy (Visiting club with most entries): Scaling Dam SC
  • DevelopChangeTrophy (Best UYC helm under 18): Robert Richardson, RS100
  • Mike Barnard Trophy (Best UYC helm under 21): Robert Richardson, RS100
  • Barclays Bank Trophy (Best place UYC): Matty and James Lyons, 49er

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