FLAGS and bunting will be flying extra high over the August 26 and 27 holiday weekend as Calstock celebrates its 150th anniversary rowing regatta.

Historically a two-day extravaganza with everything from a fun fair, parachute jumps, tug-of-war to a beauty competition, the 21st century editions of the River Tamar festival revolve more around 18ft flashboat and 15ft skiff rowing competitions — but to celebrate the special milestone, organisers are rekindling some past glories.

As well as the sport on the water, organisers are promising some surprises, along with stalls, sideshows, a barbecue and refreshments, including ice creams, cake and Tamar Valley-grown strawberries.

Calstock, on the tidal Cornish banks of the Tamar, lies some 18 miles from the open seas of the English Channel but despite that, the sport of rowing has always been a tradition for the folk of the parish.Because of the limited ‘tidal window’ and restricted width of the river at Calstock, much of Saturday’s traditional race programme is confined to heats, with many of competitors camping overnight in order to take part in Sunday’s finals.

Retired newspaper editor John Collings recalls how the two-day regatta was one of the biggest on the county circuit back in the 1960s and early 1970s. As a former trainee reporter, he would spend his time between the rowing races and the on-shore activities.

He said: “I can remember filing my copy once in 1970, describing how legendary weatherman and presenter Clive Gunnell had judged the beauty show with 15 ladies parading in swimsuits and afternoon dresses.”

Footage of Calstock regattas in the 1990s can be found on YouTube.

Flashboat rowing has conventionally always served as a trendsetter, with the mixed randan category in particular being one of the few sports in the 1970s where males and females raced on equal terms — as they still do today. Flashboat rowing was especially prominent around Cornwall in the 1950s and 60s before being overtaken in popularity by Cornish Pilot Gig rowing.

While the Pilot Gigs (and the Olympians at Henley) continue to thrive, the sport of flashboat racing is currently undergoing something of a resurgence in the Duchy as entries to the Bank Holiday regatta will surely testify.

Racing for this year’s regatta starts from 11am on Saturday (August 26) and continuing at 12.30pm on Sunday (August 27).

Calstock Rowing Club chairman, Nick Bradley said: “The weekend of our 150th anniversary regatta is something special, showing the ageless interest in the river here in Calstock and of course the need to prove who is the best crew in so many different races.

“We are determined to make it a very memorable weekend and are truly thankful to the many local people and Tamar Valley businesses who have supported us. Their assistance has been invaluable and we are really appreciative of their support, especially as it has also has allowed us to concentrate on planning the rowing races which we hope will be the highlight of this year’s competitive season.”