Yachting crews around the North Sea are already turning their attention in record numbers to visiting Shetland this summer as participants in two challenging events which include Lerwick as a port-of-call again this summer.

With 39 registrations to date for the combined Sjøassistanse Shetland-Bergen Races and the Lombardini Marine 1000mile Doublehanded Race, the number is higher than at this time in any previous year.

Competitors in the third annual Doublehanded Race will sail from Scheveningen, Holland, to join the 23rd Sjøassistanse Shetland-Bergen Races at the Norwegian port and head for Lerwick where they will be berthed between 25-28 June before following return routes.

Starters from Scheveningen will include Leslie Irvine, a local builder from Lerwick, who will be competing in the 1000mile race for the first time. He is aiming to use it as a qualifier for the Shetland Round Britain & Ireland Race in 2010, having won the Class 2 category in 2006.

Along with friend, Andrew Wood, from Penzance, Leslie will be sailing the North Sea in his new 32-foot VQ32 design yacht, Vandal, the third of three short-handed yachts being built in Holland. He hopes that the others, Velocity Girl and Home of Jazz, will all also be entered in the 1000mile event, following training in Holland in the spring.

Sandra Laurenson, Chief Executive of Lerwick Port Authority, said: “The organisers say that the growing word-of-mouth reputation of the events in the yachting community and the welcome participants always receive in Shetland are among the factors behind the high number of early entries.

“The visiting yachts and their crews, along with onshore events, make it one of the highlights of the islands’ tourist season.”

The Flavour of Shetland event, showcasing the best of Shetland’s crafts, food and drink, music and culture will take place again (25-28 June) on Victoria Pier while the yachts are in port.

The visit will also coincide with the annual Johnsmas Foy celebration of the islands’ culture, heritage and natural history, from 19-28 June, with a Viking theme this year. It also recalls connections from the 17th century when Dutch herring fishermen began their Shetland season at the feast of St John the Baptist on 24 June, gathering in Bressay Sound and coming onshore at what is now Lerwick.

Annually, more than 400 yachts call at Lerwick, berthing mainly in the town centre. The Port Authority has upgraded and expanded facilities in recent years.

See also: www.shetland-race.no and www.1000mile.org

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