PICTURE GALLERY: Ready, set slime! Snail racers enjoy olympic themed fun

WHILE the world’s athletic elite have been honing their bodies for months in anticipation of the biggest sporting competition on the planet, a more laid back group of unlikely competitors have been taking their preparation for the games at a more sedate pace.

But their unhurried training of munching on vegetation came to a slimy head last night, when they took part in the Repps with Bastwick snail olympics.

Villagers came out in force to cheer on their favourite moderately-paced mollusc as they took part in a series of table-top races.

Three heats saw the shelled competitors placed in bunches of 18 in the centre of a circle and then encouraged across the line, with the first three to slither their way over the finish declared the winner.

The top nine snails then took part in a final heat after which the overall winner was declared.

The annual races are the main fundraiser for St Peter’s, the village church, which costs around �7,000 a year to maintain.

Church warden and race organiser Sally Mitchell said light-hearted ‘betting’ on the night helped raise around a quarter of the funds needed to keep the church going.

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“The first over the line wins and it can actually be quicker than you think. Sometimes they have love ins in the middle (of the table) and crawl all over each other,” Mrs Mitchell added. “And size isn’t always everything because sometimes a small snail will pip the larger snail.”

This year, because of the close proximity to the London Games, the snail races took on an olympic theme and were preceded by a torch relay.

Made from a water pistol and decorated with fairy lights, the ‘snail torch’ was toured through the village by more than 20 runners on Wednesdsay night before being left in St Peter’s overnight.

It then made its final leg from the church to Mrs Mitchell’s farm where it was used to light a cauldron, marking the start of the races.

The merry mollusc dash is always well attended by two legged fans and often includes some familiar slimy faces, many of which Mrs Mitchell collects from her farmland.

She added: “The snails are numbered (each year) and sometimes you will see the old number still on their backs. They have a homing instinct, I have taken them to parts of the farm and it’s funny where you’ll find them.”