VOLUNTEERS from a charity claimed first prize at this year’s Henley Regatta for the Disabled.
Thirteen rowers from Headway Thames Valley, which is based in Greys Road, Henley, were awarded medals by Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak.
Click here to watch our video from the event.
About 500 people visited the fourth annual event, which was held on the banks of the Thames at Phyllis Court Club.
The regatta was opened by Henley MP John Howell for the fourth year running.
He said: "It’s always great to be here. It’s fantastic to have this opportunity to show that the river belongs to us all, whether we’re abled or disabled."
Eleven teams entered the dragon boat races, which are open to both able-bodied and disabled competitors.
The Headway crew, called Pick ’n’ Mix, have competed at the regatta for the past three years but their victory on Saturday was their first.
They are all relatives of the late Barry Potter, from Whitley, Reading, who was cared for by Headway following an accident and have been raising money for the charity for seven years.
The crew wore fancy dress costumes including Superman, Where’s Wally?, Kermit the frog, a zebra and a giraffe.
Their opponents in the final were the IndiCater Gators, made up of staff from catering software supplier IndiCater in Reading Road, Henley.
Pick ’n’ Mix completed the 500m course in just over a minute and only narrowly ahead of their rivals.
Team captain Kay Sturgess (alias "Wally"), 26, of Peel Close, Caversham, said: "I wasn’t able to be on the boat due to a shoulder injury, which I was gutted about.
"Watching from the sidelines, you could see everyone was nervous because they desperately wanted to win. We’ve reached the semi-finals in earlier years but have always been knocked out.
"We were ecstatic to win — some of us were crying because we were so excited."
Other teams to take part included Bishopswood Special School in Sonning Common, Phyllis Court Club and Oxfordshire disability charity Enrych.
The award for the most enthusiastic crew went to Addington School in Wokingham, who raced as Team Holt.
In the grounds of the club, visitors enjoyed live music, a barbecue, a Punch and Judy show and a petting zoo with donkeys, sheep and geese.
The Rivertime Boat Trust provided river trips on its 42ft boat Rivertime, which is specially adapted for disabled people, and two motor boats loaned by Hobbs of Henley. About 300 people had been on a trip by the end of the day.
Visitors also went in the Drapers’ Company’s barge, which attends events on the Thames throughout the summer as liveryman Andrew Finlay lives in Henley.
Event chairman Ian Tritton said: "This year’s regatta went very well. There was a superb atmosphere and our rowers got some of the best times we’ve had so far.
"We were very lucky with the weather. It was dry and calm but not too warm, so racing conditions were perfect.
"Everybody really enjoyed it. I’ve had feedback from people who were involved in various ways and they all thought it was a great day. A lot of people came up to me asking when the next one is. It’s definitely become part of many people’s calendars."
The Mayor said: "It was a wonderful, joyful day. Real thanks to the volunteers who put on the regatta on because it was loved by all the disabled people and everyone who was there, young and old.
"Henley is renowned for boating, rowing and regattas and now we’re supporting the disabled regatta too.
"The next thing we need to do is to get this event to be a Paralympic regatta.
"There are wonderful people in Henley who are willing to go the extra mile and make events like this happen.
"There was a gentleman who went on one of the boats who said he had not been on a boat in 12 years. He got so much joy from being there — he had a big smile."
The proceeds will be invested in next year’s regatta, which will take place on August 30. It is not yet known how much was raised.
The regatta was founded in 2010 by Jane Holmes, chief executive of the Building For The Future charity, and Louise Light, a volunteer with Headway. Both have disabled children.
Mrs Holmes stood down as chairwoman after last year’s event and was replaced by Mr Tritton, from Rotherfield Peppard.
Picture courtesy of Cloud 9 Imaging.