Power proved a crowd puller for big day out

PUBLISHED: 16:54 09 July 2008 | UPDATED: 09:56 23 August 2010

The Gravesend Promenade
Gravesend.The Big Day Out

Picture: Jamie Gray
Mobile:07834 965462

The Gravesend Promenade Gravesend.The Big Day Out Picture: Jamie Gray Mobile:07834 965462 Email:

Jamie Gray

GRAND Prix fans were treated to a double-whammy at the weekend. As Brit FI driver Lewis Hamilton roared to victory at Silverstone the Power Boat Grand Prix was staged for the first time at the Big Day Out Plus event. Old met new as the traditional rega

The Gravesend Promenade
Gravesend.The Big Day Out
Michael Adkins has Names
Picture: Jamie Gray
Mobile:07834 965462

GRAND Prix fans were treated to a double-whammy at the weekend.

As Brit FI driver Lewis Hamilton roared to victory at Silverstone the Power Boat Grand Prix was staged for the first time at the Big Day Out Plus event.

Old met new as the traditional regatta river races were held throughout Saturday and Sunday, joined by the classy 80mph powerboats, in the fifth race of the V24 season.

Fans were left disappointed when the Formula Futures racing, featuring children as young as 11 years old, was held out of the spectators sight. But when the adult racers took to the water revellers were not to be disappointed as they hurtled from Higham and past the main riverside area at breathtaking speeds.

Following the heats on the first day, Sunday was dedicated to the regatta and power boat racing finals and a maritime festival, featuring a Captain Jack Sparrow look-alike.

Two youngsters also had to be rescued on Sunday when their power boats collided as a swirl rammed them into each other before they were thrown from the boat.

Course marshal Bob Hall, who also provided medical cover, said: "Safety is always paramount with events on the river. The Power Boat Grand Prix gave another great aspect to the whole weekend.

"On Sunday one of the boats came round the last buoy to take the chequered flag and it seems the following boat just caught the rear end and both the driver and navigator took a graceful roll out. They were fine and uninjured and the boats suffered no damage so all in all it was a successful weekend.

Allhallows Yacht Club organised the Power Boat Grand Prix and hope to run future events on the River Thames at Gravesend.

Over 20,000 attended the two-day spectacular, of which the Gravesend Reporter was the official media partner for the event.

The Northfleet Carnival finished at the Promenade and the community stage featured a variety of acts from north Kent, including the colourful and popular 4 x 4 Bhangra.

At the bandstand in Fort Gardens dance and music groups entertained crowds, including an energetic display by Hayley-Lou's School of Dance.

On Saturday night the main stage became the focal point with number one bhangra band DCS headlining the evening, followed by tribute act ABBA Gold and a spectacular firework festival over the Thames.

Organisers deemed the event as one of the best ever with thousands staying into the evening to watch the bands on the main stage.

Terry Baker, 29, from Riverview Park said: "The overall weekend was a fantastic event and success. Slightly disappointing that the first power boat race was out of distance but the main course was a lot better to see.

"It was a great addition to the programme of events and judging by the crowds watching it attracted more people.

"Away from the river Gravesend has so much to offer and was good to see so many organisations taking part."

Ian Stevenson has been chairman of the Gravesend Regatta Committee for the past six years, having also held the position previously, and has been involved on the regatta for 36 years.

He said: "There's something great about the river and the regatta. When you take part there is so much camaraderie it is quite amazing and the event is steeped in history.

"We accept that nowadays the racing is for fun and annual event but it is taken seriously by the competitors. You will never get back to what I called the old days because then people were racing for their living. Watermen who took part would win a boat, even a gent's suit. For those who won a boat it could be the difference between working or not, the stakes could not be higher.

"The power boats are welcomed this year by the regatta committee. If there presence means more people visit this event then it can only be a bonus."

Over the two days Mr Stevenson acted as the adjudicator to signal who won the race, a vital role if there is no clear runner.

Mike Fitzsimmons, the vice-president, commentated over the loud speaker and talked about the history of the event. He said: "This type of racing has taken place in Gravesend for over 200 years but it was not registered until 162 years ago.

"So just think, if 200 years ago the organisers have registered it this would be known as the Gravesend Royal Regatta, not the world famous Henley Royal Regatta we know today."

The event attracted people from miles around with Essex residents crossing the river to visit the attractions.

Andy Cooper, 35, from Orsett, Essex, took his excited daughter Lauren, two-and-a-half-years-old, to see blue bear as he promoted the library service in Kent.

Mr Cooper said: "We heard about the Big Day Out last year so we decided to visit this year. It's really nice that Gravesham can exhibit what it has to offer in such a fantastic way with the river and parks creating the perfect setting."

A variety of stalls promoting Charlton Athletic FC, martial arts and dance classes to emergency services were also held on the riverside and Fort Gardens.

Gurvinder Sandher, the Assistant Director of North West Kent Racial Equality Council said: "I was very pleased with how the event went.

"A particular highlight for me was the community stage. It was so pleasing to see a range of culturally diverse artists perform on stage, especially the number of young people who were involved in the various local groups"

Bill Singh, from Cultural Beats, said "The young people I work with were really pleased to have an opportunity to perform on the community stage. Events like this are a positive way of highlighting the hard work young people locally are undertaking in the arts"

Councillor David Turner, cabinet member for leisure said: "This was a highly successful event and it is very important to us and the residents as a celebration of our community. This great event goes from strength to strength."

The event was organised by Gravesham Borough Council and North West Kent Racial Equality Council and sponsored by Ebbsfleet Valley developers.

The Gravesend Reporter team who produced a free 24-page programme for the two days were BDO media partners.

The Gravesend Reporter would like to congratulate the following winners of the regatta.

Ladies Race - Crown and Thistle

Ladies Social Clubs Race - Crown and Thistle

Ladies Pubs Race - Crown and Thistle

Mens Inter-Trades Race - The New Inn

Mens Social Clubs Race - The New Inn 'B'

Mens Pubs Race - The Terrace Tavern

Mixed Race - The Terrace Tavern

Ladies Novice Race - Old G's

Mens Novice Race - Crown and Thistle

Ladies Newcomers - Old G's/Bar 24

Mens Newcomers - Gravesend Rowing Club

Veterans - Team 'C' Steve Cason, Charlie Willson, Colin Smith and Paul Barnett, coxed by Chris Wynn.

Portworkers Race - Port of London Authority

Premier Award - The Terrace Tavern - Tim Hart, Paul Hart, Paul Ayres and Kevin Luck, coxed by Colin Smith.

The Ladies races were all won by the same crew which comprised of Pippa Mester, Michelle Brady, Debbie Johnson and Lucy Sparks, coxed by Steve Cason.

Trophies will be presented at the Presentation Evening to be held at the Old Gravesendians Rugby Club on Friday 25th July at 7.30pm. Tickets £5.

To find out more about some of the organisations featured on the day contact them direct at:

Gravesend Rowing Club: or 01474 352636;

Gravesend Sailing Club: or 01474 533974;

Allhallows Yacht Club: or 01634 270788;

Hayley-Lou's School of Dance: or 07800 579968;

Thames and Medway Canal Association: or 01732 823725;

Ebbsfleet FC: and the or 01474 320753

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