Around thirty four boats in the annual Bergen-Shetland Race will head across the North Sea next week for the highlight of the yachting season at Lerwick Harbour .

The yachts, with crews currently estimated to total around 185, will depart Bergen and – for only the second time in the event’s 26 year history – Alesund on 20 June, arriving in Lerwick the following day and leaving on the return leg on 24 June. Two Shetland yachts, Roundabout, skippered by Tommy Allan, and Vandal, skippered by Leslie Irvine, will be racing against strong Norwegian competition. Entrants include Solo, a past winner of the Blue Ribbon for the fastest crossing to Lerwick.

The Races are open to yachts with a minimum of four crew, with two on board for the Double-Handed class. Starters from Bergen will sail 194 nautical miles to Lerwick, and those from Alesund 251.

The crews will enjoy a weekend in Shetland, including a prize-giving event on Friday evening and crew activities on Saturday, with two island tours, shooting and golf available. The Race weekend coincides with the Big Crafty Summer Fair, hosted at Shetland Museum and Archives, with stalls featuring Shetland Arts and Crafts, a barbeque and entertainment.

Sandra Laurenson, Lerwick Port Authority Chief Executive, said: “The yachting calendar means that the Bergen-Shetland Race is our only international event this year and so crews can expect an especially warm welcome.

“We can also look forward to their return in 2013 when their visit will again coincide with the biennial 1000-mile Double-Handed Race from the Netherlands and, longer term, to the return of the Round Britain & Ireland Race in 2014.”

In years when major events coincide at Lerwick, adding to the increasing number of individual craft calling in recent years, almost 550 yachts use the port’s facilities.

Sandra Laurenson added: “The considerable efforts by Shetland to develop and market its many visitor attractions and investment by the Port Authority in facilities for use by visiting yachts have helped increase the number of crews sailing to Lerwick.”

Last year, the Authority invested a further £100,000 in facilities, including a set of yachting pontoons at Albert Wharf, increasing pontoon berthing by 50% during the summer, and a new access gangway to the original pontoon at Victoria Pier South. The Authority was also amongst those who supported upgrading of training facilities for young members of the Lerwick Boating Club in 2011.

Investment in recent years has also included improved access, safety and services for yachts which berth mainly in the town centre where pontoons give access at all stages of the tide. Larger yachts use the harbour wall, and there are no restrictions on size of craft.

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