ACTOR David Suchet and triple Olympic rowing champion Andrew Triggs Hodge were guests of honour at the seventh annual Henley Regatta for the Disabled.
More than 650 people attended the event, which was held in the grounds of Phyllis Court Club off Marlow Road on Saturday.
Among them were 264 able-bodied and disabled rowers who competed in dragon boat races on a stretch of the Thames between Henley Bridge and the paddock at the private members’ club.
The winners and runners-up were two crews from engineering firm Simpson Associates, of Friday Street, Henley, who went head-to-head in a close-fought final at the end of the day.
One of two crews from Team Holt, of Addington School for the disabled in Woodley, won the award for most enthusiastic boat. Trophies were presented by Henley Mayor Julian Brookes.
Triggs Hodge, who lives in Checkendon and won his third Olympic gold with the GB men’s eight at Rio last month, arrived shortly before lunchtime and jumped straight into one of Team Holt’s boats, helping them to victory in that race.
Afterwards, he chatted with visitors while posing for photographs and letting them hold his medal.
Suchet, who lives in London, is a patron of both the regatta and Henley’s Rivertime Boat Trust, which was organising river trips throughout the day on its specially-adapted vessel Rivertime.
It was the Poirot star’s first visit in several years as the event has often clashed with his acting commitments. He and his wife Sheila chatted with guests and enjoyed a short cruise on Rivertime.
Suchet said: “I haven’t been here for a few years but I was free this time so I’m thrilled to bits that I can attend. I’m very much looking forward to catching up with how it and Rivertime are doing.
“I agreed to support them because they ticked all the boxes — they’re based on the river and look after children and adults with disabilities, so I think they’re highly worthwhile.”
Click here to see our gallery of photographs of the event..
Henley MP John Howell and Phyllis Court Club chairwoman Patricia Christmas, who were recently appointed patrons of the regatta, opened the event. Mr Howell, who has visited every regatta to date, said: “I’m moved, honoured and flattered to be made a patron and hope to continue supporting the regatta as it goes from strength to strength.
“It’s great to be here again and see everyone using the river for leisure and enjoyment, which is what it’s there for.
“The regatta is fantastic because it makes the Thames available to everyone in the community.”
Mrs Christmas said: “I’ve been coming every year and enjoyed going out on a support boat last summer.
“It was a delight to see the disabled rowers’ faces as they got out on the river to see the wildlife and just generally enjoy it.
“Our club enjoys a unique position on the Thames and hosting the regatta is very important to us as we always want to give back to the community.”
Other attractions included a live rock band, a climbing wall, adaptive tandem cycling for disabled children, a petting zoo, hot food and drink stalls and a prize tombola run by Bishopswood Special School in Sonning Common.
Henley town councillor David Eggleton attended dressed as a Cavalier from the English Civil War and entertained people with local history stories.
For the second year running disabled children could try rowing on a bell boat, a specially widened canoe that is more stable and less likely to capsize.
Regatta chairman Mike Pooley said: “This year’s regatta was greatly enhanced by our two special guests. They were wonderfully friendly and approachable and it really added to the feel of the day.
“The final was very lively as the two Simpson crews were extremely competitive. It was a real photo finish.
“Attendance was down slightly, which I imagine was due to the weather, but everybody who came had a thoroughly good time and that’s the important thing. We think it was a tremendous success.”
The regatta was sponsored by housebuilder Shanly Homes, whose owner Michael Shanly lives in Hurley.
Members of the Henley Lions served as volunteer marshalls.