By Luke Power
The historic Durham Regatta returns for its 188th instalment this Saturday and Sunday as teams from Durham and across the country prepare for one of the marquee events of the city’s calendar.
This is the second-oldest rowing regatta in England, and until last year, when it was cancelled due to Covid-19, it had been held every June since 1834. Some consider it the northern equivalent of the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta.
However, this year, it will be a thoroughly different regatta to the one spectators and participants have grown used to in recent times. The 10,000 admirers that the phenomenon commonly attracts will largely not be present.
Spectators are ‘strongly discouraged’, and the cultural garnish on the bankside is to be lost, meaning we shouldn’t hold out hope for the music, classic car show, circus performances, games, and, perhaps most upsettingly, the sea of burger and ice cream vans that grace the Racecourse most years, providing much-needed refreshments under the summer sun.
That said, there will be plenty of on-water action. Across the two days, there will be a grand total of 447 races, starting at 8am on each day and finishing shortly before 7pm.
Most of the races take the short course, beginning at Pelaw Wood and blasting towards their conclusion just beyond Bath’s Bridge in the space of two or three minutes. The 700m course will be shortened by 50m on Saturday due to river restrictions taking part on New Elvet Bridge.
The Long Course is more fatiguing and demands that rowers compete over a 1,800m stretch, pacing themselves from Pelaw Wood to finish near Prebends Bridge.