ROWERS sped across the lake at Coate Water to raise thousands of pounds for charity at the annual Dragon Boat Festival.

Fifteen sponsored teams took part in the races throughout yesterday, competing in heats on the one-mile stretch of water before going head-to-head in the final to win the coveted Dragon Trophy.

Big crowds lined the water in the sunshine to watch the teams battle it out.

Captain of the winning team the Silent Killers team Laura Parnham, who were raising money for charity Ovarian Cancer Action, said: “Ovarian cancer is a silent killer, and that’s why we’ve got our team name. We’ve raised about £400 so far so we’re doing okay.”

The Pathfinders team, a local charity that takes young disabled people to outdoor activities, all came dressed as cowboys and Indians.

Jean Cliff, chairperson of Swindon Pathfinders, said: “We went to have fun and raise money. We’d love to bring the youngsters but some of them are too young.

“The youngsters with a physical disability like living life on the edge. We don’t treat them any differently.”

Linne Harper, a volunteer with Swindon Rotary Club for six years, said: “It was a brilliant day out. The costumes were fabulous and we couldn’t have had better weather.”

Drivers into the main car park even managed to avoid paying at the parking meters, which were all covered with bin bags after being vandalised.

Swindon Borough Council said that everybody had to pay this year so we were a bit disappointed,” said Linne. “But when we got here they had all been vandalised, so no-one had to pay.

“It was nice because it means the public didn’t have to pay to come in. Last year they waived the fee, because it was all for charity.”

One of the boats was from Prospect House. Its head of community engagement Warren Finney said: “This was great opportunity to have some fun and reach out to the local community.

“We already know we support 7,500 people in Swindon and Wiltshire and part of today was reaching out to people.

“It was a fun and great day for our trustees and staff.

“I think my colleagues were looking to have a good go and survive.

"Work hard, survive and ideally not fall in.

“It’s brilliant to see so many businesses and people coming together. It’s great to be able to show what a lovely place Swindon is, which is really important.

“We know from the 900-odd volunteers that there’s so much good will and charitable ethos that people want to give back to the local community and this sums it up nicely.

“Loads of volunteers from everywhere and coming and giving up their time and raising money for local charities and just going the extra mile.”

The winners to take home the Dragon Trophy were The Silent Killers, followed by Swindon Sand Sailors, the favourites to win The Silverbacks in third, and Gibbs Surfacing Ltd in fourth place.