ONE of the biggest events in the North-East’s sporting calendar returns this weekend (June 14-15), as thousands of rowers and spectators gather for the 181st Durham Regatta.

More than 700 crews will contest races along the River Wear in Durham City starting every few minutes from 8am onwards on Saturday and Sunday.

Organisers are, as always, hoping for good weather – and the forecast is currently warm and dry for Sunday, although light showers are expected during Saturday afternoon.

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Spectators are invited to line the riverbanks to cheer on the crews and there will be plenty of other attractions, including children’s activities, a climbing wall, a classic car rally, stands, live music and art.

The car rally has grown in size in recent years and this weekend more than 200 vehicles, including 100 from the Jaguar Owners’ Club, are expected.

The Army will host an inflatable bungee run, assault course and wrecking ball, self-contained paintball range and displays of kit and weaponry.

On the water, new for this year will be time trials for high-performance rowers, with the crews then allocated to knock-out events based on their times.

Most racing takes place over the 750m “short course”, with the longer Grand event staged over one-and-a-quarter miles, extending past Elvet Bridge.

This year marks the 160th anniversary of The Grand and the 1954 Durham School Grand winning crew is to be reunited for the weekend, including returning to the river on Sunday morning.

The Regatta, which is sponsored by Core People, is known as the Henley of the north, although it pre-dates its more famous southern rival by several years.

It is the second oldest regatta in England, preceded only by Chester, and started as a celebration of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo.

A number of special events are planned for next year’s regatta to mark the bicentenary of the famous British military victory and Regatta organisers want to hear from descendants of “Waterloo men” – veterans of the battle who were entitled to free food and drink at the early regattas – to be part of a complimentary dinner next year.

Entry to the regatta enclosure on Durham Racecourse costs £3 for adults and £1.50 for children aged five and up. The presentation ceremony will take place after the racing finishes on Sunday evening. For more information, visit