Sunday, April 23, 2006

At the duck race

The annual charity duck race along the Water of Leith in Stockbridge is Edinburgh's version of the Boat Race - only instead of oversized sweaty Canadians, you watch hundreds of plastic ducks floating down the river.

First run in 1988, it raises money for Cancer Research charities - you pay £1 and get a numbered duck. I picked number 1438, named him 'Quacker', and hoped for the best. As you can see, picking your duck out of the pack is a bit tricky.

Some people resorted to any method to win. Those people know who they are - and although they may have a clear conscience, history will judge them. That's all I have to say on the matter. Oh - that, and the fact that Grant was helping someone else's duck here, so he's probably a hero.

Half of the ducks were red, and half yellow - but for some strange reason the yellow ones were much faster. Months of aerodynamic work in the wind tunnel by the red duck engineers wasted, then. I wasn't sure, but I'm betting mine was probably red.

At a guess there were about 100 people following the race, which went over a course about 200m from the Deanhaugh Bridge to the cricket ground bridge. There were a few bemused tourists caught up in the excitement too - these crazy British, eh?

There were many fallers at 'The Pipe'.

At the end of the course the stewards pulled out the lucky winners and shouted the numbers out for the judge to write down. Winners are notified by post - so none of us knows if we won anything. Imagine if all the Grand National jockeys wore the same colour and the winning trainer found out a week later...

This one didn't win, caught in a slow-moving eddy. After the race the volunteers had to wade upstream picking up all the runners that never made it, caught on rocks and weeds en route. But the ducks love it, it's their one day in the spotlight.

Of course, there was no shortage of helpers to lend a hand in the cleanup. I heard one woman point to a real-life duck (I have no idea what they made of it) and tell her daughter 'Look! There's the referee!'