THE COUNTDOWN to the launch of Salcombe Town Regatta has begun and it’s all go in the Hainey household. Mum, Debbie has been running this week-long event for the past four years and her kids know that things are about to get a little hectic around here. Once dinner is done, Debbie and husband Andy sit around the kitchen table checking tide times for the harbour swim and ordering road signs for the series of closures that have to take place. Rob, 10 and Daniel, six, are busy helping to prepare the parachuting teddy event by practising with a prototype bear.
Event secretary Emma Cater walks in after a meeting down at the harbour about parking and to check what stage plans are at for the firework finale. The crowds of people who come to enjoy Salcombe Town Regatta will be blissfully unaware about the hours, weeks and months of hard work that goes into organising the event, which has been running for more than 150 years. But Debbie, Emma and the rest of the team-who are all volunteers-say they are committed to keeping the town’s heritage alive.
“I grew up in Salcombe and it’s about keeping our traditions going” says Debbie, who juggles organising the regatta with running her local hair and beauty salon. “There are definitely times when I think: why am I doing this! But then you see people there having fun and it’s all worth it. Last year, we had an acoustic guitar player performing in the car park and there must have been 40 or 50 people dancing in the rain. I turned to Emma and said: we did this, we made this happen. That’s a pretty good feeling.”
There is a bewildering array of events taking place as part of Salcombe’s Town Regatta, which runs from 5 to 12 August. As well as the rowing and other boating races, families can enjoy an ice cream eating competition, crabbing, a treasure hunt, music, magic and much, much more. The packed programme is an astonishing feat of organisation. “There is a lot going on,” admits Emma, a paramedic. “Sometimes it seems impossible but it all comes together in the end. “And we have to do it. People are passionate about this event and have grown up with it. They don’t want to lose it.”
“Once you are committed, it’s full steam ahead,” says Debbie, who has been involved with the regatta for 11 years and chairman for four. “You can’t just half do it. From about March onwards, there’s probably not one day without an email or a phone call about the regatta. “When it’s on, we’re never at home. The kids get dragged around for days and we eat chips sat on the pavement. The house looks like it’s been burgled because we run in, change our clothes and run out again.” Despite the mayhem and trying to co-ordinate hundreds of people, in-between sorting out health and safety requirements and preparing for bad weather, Debbie and Emma say they always enjoy their regatta week.
“It’s just great to see everyone coming together,” says Debbie. “We see families who have been coming for years and I get phone calls in October, asking when the regatta will be so people can book their holiday to coincide with it. “It doesn’t matter what age you are, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.” Over in Dartmouth, plans are well underway for the town’s annual regatta, first held in 1822. Chairman Ed Botterill is busy helping to put together the emergency service action plan, making sure the souvenir programme is ready to print and co-ordinating some new additions to the programme of events, including an outdoor cinema.
He says he has to devote at least two hours every day to regatta tasks, in between his role working for the Army, but he’s more than up to the challenge. “It’s full on but I prefer to be busy than not,” he says. “All the committee members do it for the love of it, that’s why we take it on.”