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Congham gets ready, steady, slow as Snail Racing World Championships return to village

It will be ready, steady, slow as snail racing returns to a village next month.

The Snail Racing World Championships are set to return to Congham when gastropods go under starter's orders for the first time in four years.

Snails will slug it out for a tankard of lettuce on Saturday, July 8 at the much anticipated return of the contest.

World Championship Snail Racing takes part at the Congham fete. Snail master Neil Riseborough gets them lined up.
World Championship Snail Racing takes part at the Congham fete. Snail master Neil Riseborough gets them lined up.

The race was suspended in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, and this quirky British event, held at Congham since the 1960s, looked like it might slide off the calendar for good when news hit of the permanent demise of the local church fete.

Now local businessmen Nicholas Dickinson of Congham Hall Hotel and Ian Haynes of Haynes Energy Services are resurrecting the unique sporting challenge.

The gastropods will gather once more at the competition’s traditional home, Grimston Cricket Ground.

Mr Dickinson. said: “It is safe to say that the Snail Racing World Championships can look forward to a bright future in the slow lane.”

Competing snails, sporting a number on their shell, will assemble at the centre of a circular tabletop track set on a damp tablecloth.

On the order of the snail master, Neil Riseborough, who states: “Ready, steady, slow,” they will be off at a snail’s pace across the 13 inch course to the outer red ring, encouraged by the enthusiastic whoops of spectators.

Snails will need to shell out £1 to take part, with all proceeds going to St Andrew's Church.

The 2019 championships were won by an antenna by a snail called Sammy owned by Maria Welby from Grantham in Lincolnshire.

Sammy took 2 minutes 38 seconds to reach the finish line first, seeing off more than a dozen opponents including Uslime Bolt.

Speaking about Sammy’s victory, Ms Welby said: “I always believed he had it in him.

“I am ecstatic.

“I went out this morning an ordinary woman and now I’m the owner of a world champion.”

The World Championships will take place on the same day as the annual charity cricket match, the Mark Redhead Memorial Trophy.

The fixture is named in honour of the late former club captain, who tragically lost his life to a brain tumour in 2018.

The match follows in the tradition of an earlier annual match, the Hancock Cup, which ran from 1960-2001. Each year, neighbouring cricket teams battled it out for a silver trophy donated by Colonel Hancock, a previous owner of Congham Hall.

Now the cup is played between Grimston Cricket Club and a team of club legends, the Grimston All-Stars.

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