FLAGS and bunting will be flying extra high over the August 26-27 holiday weekend as the village of Calstock celebrates its 150th anniversary rowing regatta.
Historically a two-day extravaganza with everything from a fun fair, parachute jumps, tug-of-war to a beauty competition, the 21st Century editions of the River Tamar festival revolve more around 18-ft flashboat and 15-ft skiff rowing competitions – but to celebrate the special milestone organisers are rekindling some past glories.
As well as the sport on the water there will be some surprises, along with stalls, sideshows, a barbecue and refreshments, including ice-creams and cakes… and, given that it’s a Tamar Valley promotion, a punnet or two of strawberries won’t go amiss!
Calstock, on the tidal Cornish banks of the Tamar, lies some 18 miles from the open seas of the English Channel but despite that, the sport of rowing has always been a tradition for the young folk of the parish…even if it still calls for a book of tide tables as much as rowlocks and oars.
Because of the limited ‘tidal window’ and restricted width of the river at Calstock, much of Saturday’s traditional race programme is confined to heats, with many of the competitors camping overnight in order to take part in Sunday’s finals.
Retired newspaper editor John Collings recalls how the two-day regatta was one of the biggest on the county circuit back in the 1960s and early 1970s.
As a ‘cub’ (trainee) reporter he would spend his time between the rowing races and the on-shore activities.
“I can remember filing my copy once (in 1970) describing how legendary ITV weatherman and presenter Clive Gunnell had judged the beauty show with 15 ladies parading in swimsuits and afternoon dresses” he says.
“When the winner was announced as 22-year-old Plymouth dressmaker Miss Rita Gloria Farr, her vital statistics of 36-24-36 were boomed out over the loudspeaker system for everyone to know and, naturally, they were duly noted in my newspaper report – but can you imagine that happening today?
Racing for this year’s regatta starts from 11.00 am on the Saturday, August 26 and continuing at 12.30 pm on the Sunday (August 27).
Calstock Rowing Club Chairman Nick Bradley said: “The weekend of our 150th anniversary regatta is something special, showing the ageless interest in the river here in Calstock and of course the need to prove who is the best crew in so many different races.
“We are determined to make it a very memorable weekend and are truly thankful to the many local people and Tamar Valley businesses who have supported us.
‘Their assistance has been invaluable and we are really appreciative of their support – especially as it has also has allowed us to concentrate on planning the rowing races which we hope will be the highlight of this year’s competitive season.”