SIR Steve Redgrave has praised the “huge commitment” made by Marlovians ever since the future of the town Regatta was threatened in 2001.

Marlow hosts its much-loved annual Regatta next weekend, but could have lost the event forever in 2001 when the official organisers quit the River Thames for Dorney Lake near Eton.

Dozens of townsfolk stepped in to rescue the town's premier social event and the re-branded Marlow Town Regatta and Festival rose from the ashes. This year will be the tenth re-branded Regatta.

Sir Steve, who is the joint-honorary president of the Regatta committee, said: “It was a difficult situation to be in because a river Regatta isn't ideal for racing.

“It was pretty unrealistic to keep the old Marlow Regatta because we have a dead-straight international course just down the road.

“But now we've got youngsters and veterans racing in the town and the event is helping produce the next generation of rowers.

“It was never going to be an easy thing to keep going but lots of people have made a huge commitment to it and it's been very successful - I still love it and it's definitely been worth all the effort.”

The earliest known Regatta in Marlow dates back to 1855 and the committee possesses an advertising poster and a silver oar which was one of the presentation prizes.

Sir Steve, who lives in Marlow Bottom, is not able to attend on June 12 and 13 because he is set to begin a charity bike ride across America on the Saturday. The five time Olympic gold medallist normally opens the event and said it will be only the second one he has failed to make.

Though the quality of rower is not what it used to be, organisers say the Regatta is still over-booked every year.

And perhaps more importantly the dress-code is just as rigid, so women in Ascot-like dresses and men in blazers will still be the order of the day.

Dennis Sergeant, a member of the MTRF, said: “There would have been such a void there if we didn't start up another Regatta.

“We came from all kinds of organisations within the town to save it and have just kept on going, even though it poured with rain the first year.”

He said there will be more trade stands than ever in Higginson Park this year along with the traditional fairground. There are also 42 dragon boats entered to race on the Sunday.

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