ORGANISERS of the Henley Regatta for the Disabled say they are thrilled with how the event has grown.
More than 700 people attended the third annual fun day at Phyllis Court Club on Saturday, which coincided with the Paralympics.
Chairwoman Jane Holmes said: “The event is getting bigger and better every year with more people and more attractions and it is getting better known.”
The regatta was founded in 2010 by Mrs Holmes, from Ruscombe, and her friend Lucy Walton, from Twyford. Both women have disabled children.
Mrs Holmes, 42, said: “We wanted the chance to give our children the same opportunities as everyone else.”
Henley MP John Howell, who opened the regatta for the third consecutive year, said: “The river is something that belongs to us all and it is important that people who are disabled feel they can have access to it.”
Fourteen teams entered the dragon boat races, including three with disabled crew members.
The winning team was the Rivertime Boys, who raced under the name of the Rivertime Boat Trust, which operates a boat to provide disabled children and adults with river trips. The crew celebrated by posing for photographs and impersonating double Olympic champion Mo Farah’s “Mobot” dance.
Jeremy Cuthbert, of Northfield End, who was part of the crew, said: “It was great fun. I had never been in a dragon boat before but I absolutely loved it. The regatta is really important as it is raising money for an exceptionally good cause and it is even more special as it is taking place during the Paralympics.”
The Star Trophy, which is awarded to the special needs team with the fastest time over the day, went to We Will Rock You.
Meanwhile, in the grounds of the club, visitors enjoyed a petting zoo, Punch and Judy show and a demonstration of boccia given by Maidenhead charity SportsAble.
President John Jenkins, a former international swimmer and Paralympic table tennis player, said: “We want to get more disabled people involved. Boccia is a relatively new sport and it is very important because it can involve quite severely disabled people.
“It was designed originally for those with cerebral palsy and is based on petanque.”
New to the regatta this year was a climbing wall, which could be used by people in wheelchairs.
Mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin, who presented the awards at the end of the day, had a go.
Volunteers from the Headway Thames Valley charity, which is based in Greys Road, sold cakes while wearing fancy dress.
Barbara Potter, who was among them, said: “My late husband went to Headway and that is why I have stayed connected. It is important to take part in this regatta to raise awareness, to have fun and just to be part of the whole thing and give support.”
Mrs Holmes, who is chief executive of Wokingham charity Building for the Future, said: “This is about demonstrating inclusion and getting people on the river but some of our people may be inspired to take up sport seriously.”
She said the amount raised was not yet known. Last year’s regatta raised £4,000.
Mrs Holmes is now standing down as chairwoman to set up a disabled people’s theatre group.