I didn't realise until this Easter that duck races are such a big deal on the Isle of Wight.
In my mind, they involve a couple of dozen people turning up at a local stream and politely cheering. A woman called Marjorie might pass round lemon drizzle cake.
I assumed that our attendance at a duck race would be noticed by Marjorie who would thank us personally for supporting their event. The vicar would announce at the end that £16.53 had been raised, which was enough to pay the church's electricity bill for the next hour.
But no, duck races are on a different scale on the Isle of Wight as we discovered this week.
Duck Race One: Yarmouth
Our first attempt was a visit to Yarmouth's duck race on Easter Saturday.
There was a group of about 20 of us, so we turned up 45 minutes early with a plan to potter around Yarmouth, sponsor a duck and then take home a prize.
However, word soon came through that they had sold out of £1 ducks so we couldn't take part in the race. Rumours suggested that the organisers had sold either 1000 or 1200 ducks. One relative said it was 1500 but further research suggests this may be an exaggeration.
A man with a thin moustache then began circling the crowd trying to sell black market ducks at £20 a pop (this bit may not be true).
Crowds gathered on Yarmouth's swing bridge, which thankfully didn't swing open whilst occupied by hundreds of people. I feared a disaster movie scene where a family is separated from its beloved Labrador by a bridge splitting in two.
The organisers then came on the booming speaker to explain that the first race would be the "corporate race". I assume there was a corporate box somewhere where canapes were served to managers of hedge funds who discussed which duck would be the champion this year.
The corporate race kicked off, and we peered across the water through a crowd which was three people deep.
Without any ducks in the water ourselves, the children began to demand ice creams so we wandered off and bought a large quantity of raspberry ripple whilst the race continued.
Whilst we missed out, I could tell that this was a lovely community tradition. It must have also raised a good amount of money to help pay for the summer carnival.
Duck Race Two: Calbourne
The next day we headed for our second duck race, at Calbourne's famous Winkle Street.
If you've not been to Winkle Street, it is worth five minutes of your time when you are in the West Wight. The stream and thatched houses have appeared on many fudge boxes and in calendars sold in garden centres. Netflix's recommendation algorithm would say "If you enjoyed Godshill...you'll love Winkle Street".
I confidently announced to the family that this would be a whole different sort of event. Marjorie would certainly be at this event with her lemon drizzle cake and kind words.
My first mistake was only arriving 20 minutes before kick off (duck off?). The car park queue snaked through Calbourne's narrow, thatched streets. Eventually we found ourselves on the playing fields which resembled the car park for the Isle of Wight festival (I exaggerate slightly).
Mrs Guru became concerned that we would face a long queue or sink into the boggy field. We had an afternoon theatre trip booked so I agreed to leave the car park. Instead, we drove off and parked on a residential street.
By the time we reached the duck race, some people were leaving and there was just one duck left in the water. A dog jumped into the stream and tried to eat the straggling duck whilst children paddled. Most of the huge crowd hung around in the sunshine, presumably discussing the thrill of the race they had just encountered. I tried to play this down to avoid a familial meltdown at my poor planning.
And so we mingled amongst the large crowd. Marjorie was probably there but we didn't spot here amongst the masses. Child one spotted one of the winners proudly holding a prize Easter egg.
Next time, I will be sure to follow these three simple steps:
Isle of Wight Guru's Blog