Record breaking entries and a record win were recorded at the 50th annual Head of the Dart race.
To celebrate the event’s half-centenary birthday it was decided to hold it over two days instead of the usual one.
The popular 13 kilometre rowing race between Totnes and Dartmouth attracted a whopping 173 entries - the most ever in its history - from as far afield as Tees in the north east of England and even a crew from Der Club Germania in Germany.
The outright winners of Saturday’s race completed the course in the fastest ever time of 41 minutes and 48 seconds.
Hailed a huge success by organisers – both the Dart Totnes and Dartmouth rowing clubs – the event has grown over the years to become a challenge for all types of rowing boat plus paddling craft.
Organiser Peter Atkinson of Dart Totnes Rowing Club said: “To celebrate the race’s 50th anniversary it was mooted that we should it over two days, with bigger boats consisting of four seats or more going downstream on Saturday, and smaller boats with two seats or less plus paddlers, going upstream on Sunday – both days with the tide.
“The weather was extremely kind to us, though the freshness of the wind on Sunday proved to be quite a challenge for some.
“It was the biggest entry we’ve had to date with 97 boats on Saturday, which included 26 eights, and 76 on Sunday.
“This included three K1 kayaks, one outrigger canoe and two surf-skis.”
Winning Saturday’s race in record-breaking time were the composite quad of Elliott Barton and Mladen Macanovic of the Dart Totnes Rowing Club together with James Cracknell of Itchen RC Southampton and Harrison Skinner of Lea RC London.
Both James and Harrison used to row for Plymouth University from Dart Totnes Rowing Club.
Second were Shiplake College Open 8+ with the Dart Totnes Open 8+ taking the third slot.
Category wins for the Dart Totnes club include the Men’s and Women’s Masters Eights and the Women’s Masters Quad Sculls.
Peter said: “Sunday proved quite challenging for the smaller boats even though the wind had changed to accompany the flood tide.
“Winners overall were once again the Totnes duo of Elliott and Mladen in 47:06, with the single sculler Tim Wilkinson of Greenbank Falmouth in second place in 50:51.
“Third was the Greenbank Mixed double in 51:40.
“Other category winners from Totnes were the Women’s Masters double and Mixed Masters G double (over 65 average age).
“Darrtmouth could only field a Women’s quad on the Saturday but the girls absolutely saved the days by also acting as marshals for embarkation and disembarkation on the slipway.”
Achievement of the weekend went to the Dart Totnes Masters 1 crew, whose average age is over 75, consisting of Mike Hughes, Patsy O’Flaherty, Ken Raisin and Nick Sowman with cox Graham Terryl.
The crew completed the course in 1hr 4 mins and 48 seconds, but why so special?
Peter explained: “Three of the crew - Mike, Patsy and Ken - rowed in the first ever Head of the Dart back in 1971 coming second to an Exeter crew by some 30 inches.
“They rowed for Dartmouth in those days and not Dart Totnes.”
Peter said the event owned a “huge debt of gratitude” to the numerous volunteers along with Dart Harbour Authority and the Stoke Gabriel Boating Association.
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