Olympian Louis Smith lit up Peterborough Rowing Lake as crowds of people braved the pouring rain at the city’s Dragon Boat Festival.
Gymnast Louis arrived at the lake midway through the festival to row as part of the Fitzwilliam Hospital team in the annual charity spectacular, which is raising money for Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice appeal.
And while his teammates, including Peterborugh Phantoms ice hockey stars James Ferrara, Robbie Ferrara and Jason Buckman, had mixed luck in the morning heats, nearly capsizing on their debut, in Louis’ first race the boat sped to victory.
Louis said: “I have come here with the Fitzwilliam Hospital to help out at this great event.
“We are not going to let the rain dampen our spirits. It is great so many people have turned up in this weather.
“I am hoping I will be able to speed our boat up. I did do a dragon boat race six or seven years ago, so I might be able to add a bit of experience.”
Along with Fitzwilliam Hospital there were 35 other teams, representing organisations including Sue Ryder, Anglian Water, The Peterborough Telegraph and Froglife.
Many turned up in fancy dress - from a team wearing Where’s Wally? costumes, to paddlers donning pirate hats, face paints and other bright clothing.
Many of the teams had set up tents and marquees along the lake’s bank, with barbecues lit despite the pouring rain.
James Ferrara, captain of the playoff winning Peterborough Phantoms, said: “The team is hoping to form a partnership with Fitzwilliam Hospital - in our sport we get a lot of injuries. We want to support them in their charity and community events as well. “It is a fantastic event - I keep looking to the side and see how much smoke there is coming from the barbecues.
“It will also help our pre-season training, as it is all about communication and team work, as well as power.”
It is the second time the race has been held on the rowing lake, after being held at the Embankment for a number of years.
Race director Merklyn Hauck, from event organisers Gable Events, said: “The day is going very well - 36 teams turned up on time despite the rain.
“People are making it a really successful day, and the atmosphere is fantastic.
“It really is an event for everyone - our youngest competitor is aged 16, while our oldest is in their 80s.
“It is the first year we have had our partnership with Sue Ryder, and I think it has brought more people to the event, because it is such an important charity for so many people here.
“The 36 teams is the most we can have on the rowing lake, and we may have to go back to the Embankment in the future.”