23 February, 2014

Ducking down to Shelford

After months of preparation and weeks of promotion, the big day had finally arrived. The 2014 Shelford Duck Race was upon us! And naturally enough we headed off for a look.
Stalls and activities at the 2014 Shelford Duck Race
This was not the first time we had intended to check out the fun of this particular fair, but last year's attempt was derailed by a significantly longer paddle down the Barwon than expected. This year however, I was determined that we would not miss it, so we arrived in good time and browsed the food and produce stalls. The kids availed themselves of some of the rides and we sipped drinks in the shade as we waited for the race to start.
Camel Rides!
As we approached the designated start time of 3:30pm the crowds began to build along the banks of the "Mighty Leigh" as it was referred to on several occasions. I slipped into position near the start line so as to get a good view of the action and sat down to wait and wait...
The calm before the storm, the Leigh River
As the designated start time came and went, officials scurried back and forth (an issue with the range of the microphone it seemed):

A race official
Marshals herded the ducks towards the start line and waited for the signal to begin:

At the start line in the hands of the officials
Finally, as the clock ticked past 3:50pm we had a start.
Off and racing!
Progress was slow, but some nearby opined that it was about twice the speed of last year's race. With commentary beginning to crackle through the speakers, the ducks bobbed slowly along in the current.
The marshals followed behind, poking at stragglers with their sticks and making sure that all 750 participants in the sold out race remained on course and didn't get stuck wallowing in the shallows.
After the excitement of the start of the race, I moved downstream to a position midway along the course and waited for the ducks to round the bend.
Ever so slowly, the ducks made their way towards us. By the time they reached the turn, the field had become quite strung out, however as the finish line drew nearer, the competitors came back together again, ready for a tight finish.
A bunch finish
 Then, after about 30 minutes and around 100 metres, the finish line was in sight. As the first duck crossed the line a cheer went up and it was quickly grabbed by an eager official who announced the winning number...

And the winner is...
It was closely followed by duck number 185 with duck 201 taking out third place. Amidst some excited chatter, the prize-winners came forward, the crowd dispersed to continue the festivities and the ducks were bundled up and taken off to begin training for next year's race.

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