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Shrewsbury Regatta makes oar-some return for the first time since Covid shutdown

Thousands have descended on the banks of the River Severn for an oar-some weekend of rowing.

Spectators enjoyed watching from the bank
Spectators enjoyed watching from the bank

The Shrewsbury Regatta made a glorious return in the sun at Pengwern Boat Club for the first time since 2019 following the coronavirus pandemic, and competitors and spectators made the most of it on day one.

Teams from up and down the country took part in the event, which is one of the oldest in the rowing calendar, still going strong since 1871. Other than the Covid pandemic, wars and floods are the only events that have previously stopped the regatta going ahead.

Racing across all classes is to take place over the two days, with a 900m race on Saturday and a 550m race on Sunday.

Poised to go

Along the riverside, rowers preparing for their races carried their boats, while family members and supporters cheered on competitors battling it out on the water.

The gentle waft of burgers and hot dogs filled the air as spectators enjoyed unrestricted views of the last 500 metres of the course from the clubhouse. Many also watched on from the Kingsland Bridge and the Quarry side of the river.

A nearby footbridge was another popular perch

Michael Ratcliff, organiser of the event sponsored by Brewin Dolphin, said: "It is a beautiful day. We tend to have about 1,500 competitors over the two days. We've got about 200 crews this year.

"We were hit twice by the pandemic. The first lockdown put paid to it in 2020 and another one did for us last year. If we held it later in the summer we might have got away with it.

"It did hit us financially because this event is a real money-spinner for us. These boats don't come cheap."

It was a good day to watch from the grass

He added: "The river is nice and low, and we haven't had anything go wrong so far. Normally a few will capsize, but when that happens we get the rescue team out to them straight away.

"I think people are pretty pleased that we're back. The teams all seem to be having a good time."

Teamwork

Michael also said that the event often generates more local interest in people wanting to get involved in rowing.

"It always helps," he said. "We do 'learn to row' courses for people that want to start. Like anything, it's always easier if you start to learn when you are young, but you can take up rowing at any age."

In previous years, teams from as far as the Netherlands visited Shropshire to compete in the event, and there have been rowers in their eighties taking to their boats.

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