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Boatfloat belly flop 30 years on

IT was called the High Dive Belly Flop but it turned out to be a rip-roaring, riotous success, for the Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta, with ripples of laughter still going out 30 years later.
Philip Watts, who was then head chef at the Royal Castle Hotel, remembers taking part in the event, jumping – or rather launching himself head first – into the Boatfloat dressed in his chef’s whites.
‘I didn’t win, but it didn’t matter,’ said Philip, who has lived in Dartmouth for 35 years and is now an independent events coordinator and chef at the town’s Browns Hotel.
‘The atmosphere was electric with staff from the hotel leaning out of the upstair’s window and the event broadcast on a giant overhead screen.
‘My whites had buttons down the front and the next day I woke with bruises all the way down my chest from where I had hit the water.’
The wacky competition was instigated and organised by David Kelland, who went on to become a regatta chairman.
At the time, David was working in lighting and as a stage hand at the Festival Theatre in Paignton when he persuaded some stars of the summer shows to get involved in regatta.
Les Dawson’s daughter Pamela and Katie Goodwright, daughter of comedian Peter Goodwright who was appearing in the 1989 summer season at the Festival Theatre with the Dawson dancers the Roly Polys, were the competition judges.
‘Competitors flung themselves off the Boatfloat steps,’ said David. ‘It was incredible fun and everybody loved it.
‘Of course, health and safe restrictions later put a stop to it, but who knows, perhaps they could look to bring back something similar.’
Further inshore, David later turned his attentions to more rural challenges and was instrumental in setting up the now hugely successful Blackawton Worm Charming Festival, taking place this year on Sunday, May 1.

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