Wednesday, 06 July 2022

150 years of splashing about

150 years of splashing about

THE 150th annual Wargrave and Shiplake regatta went ahead despite thunderstorms.

More than 700 people took part in 365 races on the River Thames on Friday and Saturday with classes including sculling, skiffing, punting and canoeing.

The event was hit by rainstorms on the second day and racing was suspended for half an hour when lightning was seen nearby.

The delay meant that racing was running almost an hour behind schedule for the final events.

However, when the sun appeared later in the afternoon, hundreds of spectators set up picnic tables and gazebos in order to enjoy the action while many others watched from their own boats on the water.

They included Wargrave vicar John Cook, who was ferried across the water on a garden chair tied to the front of a boat.

To mark the anniversary, an old canoe was decorated with flowers and a floral display in the shape of the number 150 was on show .

The racing took place on a stretch of the river between Shiplake railway bridge and land off Ferry Lane in Wargrave and the competitors included many who had taken part in previous years.

A children’s crew, who were dressed in purple wigs for the heats of the junior dongola race, drew gasps from the crowd when one of them tumbled into the water near the finish line and had to be fished out by a safety boat crew.

The dongola grand challenge cup was won by Old Grey Goose Has Gone, which comprised Amy and Kristofer Karlsson, Jenna Shanks, Ben Bower, Peter Brown and Karl Yurkwich-Spink.

Mr Karlsson also won the Vassal Adams Trophy for most stylish punting.

STBC won the Thames dongola for the second year in a row. The crew compromised Julia Frances, Lou Reeve, Ed Couldwell , Chris Huston, Simon Berrisford and David Bushnell, of Bushnell’s marina in Wargrave,

Mr Huston said: “It was a lot harder work this year and we weren’t as fast as last time but having a great crew helps.”

A crew called King Dongola, comprising Barnaby and Joanna Brown, Amanda Walden, Paul Nash, Drew McNaughton and Sunil Sha, was taking part for the first time since 1998 when they won the junior dongola and centenary dongola challenge. This time, they finished second in the Thames dongola and were awarded the Hermon Trophy, which is awarded to an individual or crew which has made a special contribution to that year’s regatta.

A crew called The Coffin Dodgers won the veteran dongola . Suzette and Mick Smith, Kate and Adrian Robinson, Dave Bucknall and Chris Sayer regularly compete at the regatta and won the Thames dongola in 2009.

Mr Robinson said: “We have been doing it for 10 years but this is the first time we’ve been veterans. We had two races and the first one was in the afternoon so we got a bit wet but that’s just what happens.”

Christine Hillier won the ladies’ single punting and teamed up with Matthew Gordon to claim victory in the doubles.

David Gillard and Rory Copus won a double sculling skiff double, partnering Peter Lowe in the men’s race and teaming up with Peter Jacobs in the veteran men’s event.

A new event was held to mark the regatta’s anniversary. The Jubilee dongola was won by POGO, comprising Pippa, Angus and Charlie Spencer and George, Donne and Will Paddison.

Competitors were encouraged to dress up and medals were awarded for the best fancy dress.

Costumes included ducks, bees and bananas and the winners, The Heebeejeebees, were dressed as characters from The Flintstones.

Peter Symons, the regatta’s honorary secretary, said: “The 150th regatta was, quite simply, better than ever — great racing on both days, great crowds, lots of smiles all around and even the weather decided to smile most of the time.

“It wasn’t without its challenges. There was the unscheduled stoppage for lightning, a 365-strong race programme that challenged everyone’s powers of organisation and a special event, the Jubilee dongola , which added to an already crowded schedule. There’s always a first at every regatta and this year it was the stoppage needed early on Saturday afternoon after lightning was seen in the distance.

“Racing was suspended and all competitors were taken off the water for more than 30 minutes.

“Inevitably, this knocked on and turned the 30-minute stoppage into the best part of an hour delay and we were racing to catch up.

“It was just one of those things. It was a great regatta and everything we wanted the 150th to be.

“At the end of the day it’s two days of fun in a field for two villages by the river.”

• Although the regatta was celebrating its official 150th anniversary, it could be older as the only documented proof of its age is an 1867 programme printed by Higgs Group, publishers of the Henley Standard.

Watch our video of the event here:

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