Durham Regatta has its origins in the annual procession of boats, organised by the Sheriff of County Durham and the Rt. Hon. William Lloyd Wharton, in June 1815 to celebrate the ‘famous victory’ at Waterloo. The event included the ‘firing of cannon and a substantial supper with a plentiful supply of strong ale for the Waterloo men’. The annual procession of boats continued for many years, but Durham Regatta in its present form dates back to 1834, with racing taking place over two days from Prebends Bridge to Pelaw Wood.
The regatta is the second oldest in the country, preceded only by Chester Regatta and pre-dates Henley (the “Durham of the South”) by 5 years. Today, the regatta takes place over both the 750m ‘short course’ and the ‘long course’ on the scenic River Wear in Durham City, regularly attracting in excess of two thousand competitors including international entries, and ten thousand spectators from across the United Kingdom.
The Grand Challenge Cup has been a feature of the regatta for over 160 years. Raced over the iconic ‘long course’ of one-and-a-quarter miles, which uniquely includes negotiating the narrow arches of Elvet Bridge, it is the most coveted prize at any regatta in the North of England.
Innovations to the racing programme at the regatta in recent years have included time-trials for high-performance crews, with the results used to allocate crews to a series of knock-out events. These new ‘Championship’ events have been highly successful in producing high quality close and exciting racing.