Messing about in boats since 1973
Friends and Committee Colleagues often smile when they find out that I always archive committee meeting minutes but when asked to write a history of our regatta it came in rather useful!
The present Regatta was started in 1973 as the idea of a group of members of Hurley Tennis Club who wished to raise money for a new hard court. As a consequence a small committee, of Richard Burfitt (Chairman), David Burfitt, Peter Freebody, and Dick Way was formed with Janet Burfitt becoming our first Entries Secretary. Peter Freebody provided the boats; Hurley Farms Ltd the venue. It was a nerve racking time as none of us had done this before and when entries closed we had two entries! However the event took place with 59 races consisting of punting, sculling, dinghy and canoe races. As we were in the days of more relaxed Health and Safety Legislation, we had a novelty race involving doing somersaults over a bar, climbing through tyres, all whilst paddling a canoe. A slippery pole pillow fight and a log race also took place. Ex Olympic sculler, Sid Rand, took part as did a very young Peter Moore. The regatta raised £150, prizes were donated by villagers and it was so popular we were persuaded to continue and here we are 47 years on!!
During the next few years the number of races increased to 94 and more races were included for children. In 1981 John Jenkins, vice-president of WAMDSAD, suggested that we held a raft race, in which they wished to take part. This was the first year that we gave away over £1000.
In 1980 we decided to widen our request for more sponsors and the support from villagers was overwhelming. From a slow start over the first 10 years when £3500 was donated, the regatta had become an integral part of Hurley village life and junior races had become a part of activities for children.
Over the next 10 years we introduced poddling; a relay race; raft-tote; Double Canadian Canoe; Premier & Thames Dongola races; Tug of war. By 1989 we had introduced the ever since popular bath race. Many races now took place in groups of 4 increasing the number of competitors able to take part. The regatta bought 4 canoes and in 1991- 3 dinghies and 3 punts.
1994 saw the introduction of our first Dragon Boat races. These were very well supported and exciting to watch as rarely did more than a second separate the two teams taking part. By this year we had supported over 80 charities and given away nearly £16,000.
As 1997 dawned, so did our Silver Jubilee Regatta. Surely in this momentous year we needed to do something special. And so we did. We had a bigger & better funfair; a Hog Roast; Roving entertainers; Morris dancers; Land based events and competitions taking place in an arena.. The event was extended into the evening with the jazz band continuing in a large marquee until 11.00pm and a firework display kindly donated for us all to share, by a husband celebrating his wife’s birthday.
In 1998 we changed the format of the raft race. Instead of inviting competitors to build their own rafts beforehand which made it rather “unfair” when “semi-professional” teams brought rafts with fixed seating and gas filled barrels, we asked prospective competitors to spend their lunch hour building a raft using materials provided. This added a lot of fun to the competition. Also during this time we introduced more on land competitions such as the land rover pull.
By 2001 our donations to Charity had risen to £28,270. Our sponsorship list had doubled and the raft race consisted of 15 rafts, the maximum we could safely take. Then, by 2002, we had bought our own Dragon Boat and Steve Carroll had become a permanent fixture as our evening entertainer.
2006 saw us with a full programme of Arena events as well as racing on the water all day. Arena events included egg throwing; Landover Pull; Angels on a Pinhead; Dry Skiing; Tug of War; Wheelbarrow racing; Smartie Artie entertainers; face painting. While in 2008 we started our own web-site. Pet dog racing and a tote were also introduced in the Arena and we bought a second Dragon Boat..
2011 dawned sadly with the death of one of our Founder Members and Starter, Peter Freebody. However, he would be immensely proud that a village activity that started in such a very small way in 1973 has now, in 2019, reached its 47th year and given away over £100,000 to Charity whilst giving entertainment and fun to residents and many thousands of visitors over the years.
Sadly then COVID struck and the 2020 Regatta had to be cancelled. The Committee then tried to start up again in 2021 but the COVID restrictions again forced a cancellation. However, 2022 renewed the Committee’s enthusiasm and plans were made to hold our 48th regatta. But once again the committee were forced to cancel at the last moment due to lack of support and general malaise amongst the public for community events. However, 2023 looks as if we are back up and running albeit with a slightly different format.