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Dartmouth fireworks provide spectacular end to thrilling regatta

THOUSANDS of people enjoyed the final weekend of events which became the crowning glory of this year’s Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta.
The world’s last flying Vulcan bomber put in a surprise appearance to boost the air displays that had to be modified at the last minute when the Red Arrows reduced their programme from an aerobatic display to a flypast.
Regatta chairman Jonathan Hawkins said it had been an excellent week – despite visitor numbers being slightly down early on due to bad weather and traffic chaos on Friday evening when the park and ride service was reduced to one bus.
Alan Smith, from Kingsbridge, said a queue of thousands, stretching almost half-a-mile, resulted in a two-hour wait for his family, which included elderly parents and a two year-old-daughter.
‘We were told that the bus company only had two buses on and one had broken down,’ he said.
‘Six buses would have been hardly adequate, so two was quite frankly a joke.
‘The organisers have their priorities wrong. Too much attention is on the VIPs and sailing fraternity and not enough on the many people queuing who spend their money and make the regatta financially viable.’
Mr Hawkins apologised for the disruption and admitted lessons needed to be learned from the park and ride operation.
‘We are very sorry for any inconvenience suffered by those passengers,’ he said. ‘It is the first time the regatta committee, all volunteers, have run the park and ride and we are looking to make improvements next year.
‘Despite the hiccups, so many people had a good time and we are already planning next year’s regatta and would welcome any new people or ideas.’
Visitors on Saturday witnessed some of the highlights in the regatta programme, in particular the town’s first – and last – flypast of the Vulcan bomber.
The former RAF bomber, the last airworthy aircraft of a type originally designed to bomb Russia, is to be taken out of service this year.
The regatta had only been able to afford the Vulcan after it was announced that Friday night’s Red Arrows display had been reduced to two fly pasts after advice from the Civil Aviation Authority.
The CAA has issued a series of new guidelines after the Shoreham disaster in which a 1950s Hawker Hunter jet crashed on a busy road, killing at least 11 people.
A statement from the RAF Red Arrows said: ‘It has been assessed that the required changes to display heights and positioning would have reduced the visual quality of the display for the public to an unacceptable level and therefore, with regret, the Red Arrows will not be conducting a full display at Dartmouth this year.
‘The Red Arrows recognise many people will have made plans and are looking forward to seeing the team perform. Not wanting to disappoint the public, the team will, instead, conduct two fly pasts – not involving aerobatics.’
Regatta organisers also had to change a Strikemaster jet’s routine on Saturday because of the CAA changes.
A minute’s silence was held at the regatta to remember those who died during the previous Saturday’s Shoreham air show tragedy.
Hilary Bastone, regatta president, said: ‘It was the first time we’d had the Vulcan and it was sensational. Everyone burst into applause as it flew away. It was incredible.
‘The atmosphere in Dartmouth was electric for the Red Arrows. I would say there were 40,000 here and there are probably about the same numbers here today.
‘People were disappointed about the Red Arrows only performing a fly past.
‘Because we saved some money paying for the Red Arrows, we were able to make arrangements for the Vulcan to fly at a special price of £10,000. Normally it costs £17,000 to £20,000. It was the last opportunity for people to see the Vulcan fly.
‘The Vulcan does not display, it just performs the fly past. And the RAF Typhoon was brilliant, as usual.’
Saturday’s programme culminated in the second fireworks display of the week. Mr Bastone said: ‘I’ve heard nothing but praise for the fireworks. We had displays on Thursday as well as Saturday and both were popular. They were spectacular.’
He said other highlights of the regatta had been the rowing and the official regatta guardship, HMS Monmouth, known as the Black Duke, which ‘looked wonderful in the sunshine out in the river’.
‘They gave out 600 tickets for the ship in 40 minutes,’ he said. ‘The queue was 150 yards long.’
He estimated that 40,000 people had attended the regatta each day, and added: ‘That’s about all we can cope with, as Dartmouth is a difficult place for getting to and parking.’
After a wet start to the week, visitor numbers swelled towards the weekend as dry and sunny weather graced the finale of the regatta programme.
More action was to be had on the river with the WEARA rowing – where one race had to be halted when the Kingswear Castle paddle steamer strayed into the racing channel – and the local rowing finals, as well as offshore yacht racing.
There were waiters and waitresses races, a trolley grand prix and barrel rolling on the Boatfloat bridge, the popular pavement artist competition, junior crab fishing and music in the bandstand.
Runners lined up for the road race on Saturday and there was more action in the air with the RN Sea King and RNLI and the Battle of Britain memorial Flight and a steam boat rally.
Fireworks and a closing ceremony in the bandstand brought the programme to a close as generally people went home tired and happy – and looking forward to next year’s regatta.

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