Thousands enjoy new-look Durham Regatta

Under the stunning setting of the city’s Cathedral and in perfect conditions, thousands of spectators turned out to watch the 181st Durham Regatta.

This years’ regatta was oversubscribed for entries and the organisers were forced to suspend entries early when more than 2,800 competitors and over 700 crews were registered.

The racing format was changed by the organisers this year, with boats qualifying by time trial.

Richard Mortimer, the Entries Secretary, explains: “Basically, it’s all the higher status events for Elite Performance competitors, and that includes Open Elite Eights, Women’s Elite Fours, Elite Scullers, both Men’s and Women’s and, of course, the Grand Challenge Cup.

“Instead of a pure knock-out event, we time-trial the crews over the course, then use the results of the time-trial to seed competitors into four boat knockout events. This ensures that the fastest crews are in the top events and crews with similar speeds are racing each other – the hope is we can deliver some tight and competitive racing. It also means that all Elite crews will have the opportunity to qualify for The Grand, which means that only the fastest crews will have the honour of racing for The Grand Challenge Cup.

“The big competition remains the Grand – which is something of a grudge match this year between Newcastle University and Durham University. But the other big event which creates the biggest noise among the spectators is the men’s elite eight.”

In the event, Newcastle University’s four comfortably defeated last year’s winners Durham by six lengths, with a powerful, fluid and controlled paddle which pushed them ahead by three lengths at the first bend after the footbridge.

Durham got their glory at the end of the day, however, when their eight came in victorious ahead of Tyne RC – whose own appearance in the final came courtesy of an impressive semi-final victory over Newcastle University.

Also attending the event was a crew of old boys, all in their seventies, from Durham School, who won the Grand in 1954, returning to this year’s regatta 60 years on for a processional down the course in the early morning. 

Durham Regatta originated from the 1815 celebration of the victory at Waterloo and is frequently referred to as the ‘Henley of the North’ although Wearsiders prefer to call Henley the ‘Durham of the South’. The regatta in its present form began in 1834. 

This year, to mark next years’ bicentenary, organisers at Durham Regatta have launched a search for relatives of the “Waterloo men”, who fought at the great battle, and were entitled to a dinner and free ale at the early regattas. So please see the Durham Regatta website if your lineage goes back to that field in Belgium – www.durham-regatta.org.uk.

Ian Green

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