THE cream of rowing talent from across the country was in the North- East at the weekend for the 176th Durham Regatta.

Thousands of people turned out to watch the keenly contested races.

The regatta, dubbed the Henley of the North, was blessed by sunshine on Saturday, while on Sunday spectators braved the occasional shower to cheer the rowers on.

Races set off like clockwork every couple of minutes throughout the weekend with the finishing line close to Elvet Bridge in the city centre.

Regatta secretary James Lamb said: “The regatta has gone very well. Saturday was a good day in particular and the sunshine brought out more than 5,000 people to the banks of the River Wear to watch the events.

“We have had some good rowing this year. It is truly an international event with crews from Holland and the Czech Republic.

“Bath University is new to us this year. Pretty much every club in the North-East attended, as well.”

He added: “We still have good competition between Durham and Newcastle universities.

“The highlight of the event was the Grand Challenge Cup – the elite men’s coxed fours – which was hotly contested by crews from Durham and Newcastle universities. It was a close race with Newcastle University winning.”

Ages of the competitors ranged from 13 to 18 in the junior categories, with the oldest crew into their 70s.

Mr Lamb said: “There are some very fit veterans out there.”

The regatta was very much a family event with a host of attractions on the fringes including live music, a miniature railway, dog handling display and fire brigade demonstration. Up to 200 vehicles from the Twenties to the Eighties were on show on the university playing field.

Mr Lamb said: “The whole community gets involved. It means a lot to the city.

“The mayor of Durham, Councillor Dennis Southwell, was here to support the Mayor’s Plate.”

The Durham Regatta is the second oldest in the country, pre-dating the Henley event, with only the Chester Regatta boasting a longer history.