The legendary Durham Regatta is one of the cornerstones of the annual rowing calendar. Taking place each year on the second weekend of June on the River Wear – and the stunning backdrop of the World Heritage Site of the City of Durham – the Regatta has deservedly come to be known as ‘the Henley of the North’.
That moniker, of course, refers to the prestigious event on the River Thames that actually first took place five years after its north-eastern counterpart.
Few regional events boast such a remarkable history
While the first running of Durham Regatta was in 1834 – shortly after the university was formed – the event has its origins in the annual procession of boats organised by the Sheriff of County Durham and the Rt. Hon. William Lloyd Wharton in June 1815 to celebrate the “famous victory” at Waterloo.
The early Durham Regatta took a form similar to what the event’s many admirers are familiar with today, the racing taking place over two days from Prebends Bridge to Pelaw Wood. Today, though, the events are held over two courses – a short 700-metre course and a longer, more challenging course stretching some 1,800 metres.
There are now about 60 trophies presented at the Regatta each year, and as you might expect, many of these have their own impressive histories. However, there’s no doubt about the most prestigious accolade – the Grand Challenge Cup, which was introduced in 1854 and has been dominated in recent years by Durham University Boat Club and Newcastle University Boat Club.
So, what can you expect as a visitor in 2018?
One thing that you will certainly notice as an attendee of Durham Regatta these days is that it isn’t just for the most avid followers of the boat-racing calendar. Even in the earliest years of the event, local veterans of Waterloo would be able to help themselves to free ale, but similar hospitality is now extended to surviving relatives of local men at the battle.
More than that, though, you’re entitled to join those descendants and the several thousand more people who attend the event every year as spectators. In fact, it’s hoped that this year’s Regatta – set for the weekend of 9th and 10th June – could see numbers even higher than the 10,000 spectators that showed up in 2017.
The action itself can be enjoyed ‘up close and personal’ from Durham riverbank, with the elite men’s and women’s fours event seeing the region’s best rowers negotiate Elvet Bridge at flat-out race pace.
It’s not just about the rowers
But you’ll also have much more than the racing itself to look forward to, thanks to the free live bankside entertainment and activities that are planned over the next two days. These include music at the historic bandstand and circus performers, not to mention souvenir and craft stalls and even a display of hundreds of beautifully maintained classic cars.
With tickets costing just £5 for adults and £2 for over-65s and children aged between five and 16, this year’s Regatta promises to be something truly special. Visit www.durham-regatta.org.uk or call 0770 976 5085 for the latest information about this year’s ticketing, events and more.