THOUSANDS of people soaked up the sun, then became drenched in a downpour at a regatta at the weekend.

The banks of the River Wear were lined with people enjoying picnics and Pimms as rowing teams from all over the country took to the water for the event.

Durham Regatta is now in its 175th year and about 2,500 people took part in 500 races.

Organisers estimate that 12,000 people visited the city's racecourse to take in the atmosphere and cheer on the crews.

Spokesman Jim Dulling said: "There was a really good atmosphere and there was a lot of support for the visiting crews. A lot of the competitors were local young people from college and rowing clubs. It is a big thing for them to compete in an event like this.

"People talk about the toffs at Henley, but up here we are just ordinary folk, though we do still like to dress up and have a good time."

In one of the closely fought races, St Aidan's College, Durham, was beaten by University College, Durham.

St Aidan's crew member Chris Allan said they failed to make the start they hoped for.

He said: "We went down half a length and that gave them the psychological advantage. We tried to hold them, but pulled away and we could not quite drag it back."

The weather held out for most of Saturday, but a deluge forced people to reach for their umbrellas towards the end of the day, although yesterday was mainly fine.

As well as the races, there were even more food and drink stalls this year, as well as other family entertainment such as dog displays, wood carving and steel bands.

The regatta was complemented on Saturday night by the Illuminate Festival, now in its second year.

It featured street theatre acts such as The Baghdaddies, Mr Lucky and The Invisible Men.

At dusk, a street parade led crowds through Durham and back down to the Riverside, where the evening finished with a fireworks display.

Meanwhile, about 150 vintage vehicles from as early as the Twenties were parked near the racecourse bandstand.

Owners were competing for four tankards on each day, which judges can award to any vehicle that catches their attention. Organiser Ken Vipond said: "People have been coming down to watch the races, then coming to look at all of the old cars. They have been fascinated and some have had their pictures taken with them."

Elsewhere in the city, a Thirties bus carried people between Howlands park-and-ride site and the Market Place, on Sunday.