STOCKTON'S nine-day Take to the Tees festival of river and riverside activities got off to a flying start yesterday (Sunday 22 August) when more than 400 competitors took park in the first event, the Stockton Triathlon.
A record entry - around double last year's numbers - ensured the event was a great success. Ben Newman of North Shields and Anna Turvey of Jesmond won the £500 first prizes for the men's and women's standard-distance triathlon. They covered the 1,500 metre river swim, 40km cycle ride and 10km run in 1 hour 53 minutes and 2 hours 11 minutes respectively.
Gary Wilson and Marie Stansmore won the shorter sprint-distance event, with Shaun McMahon and Amanda McLeod triumphing in the 'mini' event for beginners.
Take to the Tees activities now focus on seven days of 'taster' activities on and around the river. Open to all, these run until Sunday 29 August and take in activities ranging from sailing, water skiing and canoeing to powerboat trips, nature walks or even cheerleading.
Mostly based at the Tees Barrage or various points on Stockton Riverside, sessions must be pre-booked and most cost just £2 per person, with some completely free. But the message is it's first come, first served, so book early using the Arc online website www.arconline.co.uk.
Councillor Ken Lupton, Leader of Stockton Council, said: "Take to the Tees encourages people to try something new, so it's tremendous that so many took part in the triathlon. I congratulate them all, particularly the beginners.
"Now we have a week of activities designed to give people a taste of things they may otherwise never have experienced - and maybe take things further if they have enjoyed what they've done.
But don't waste time - the sessions are filling up fast."
Next weekend, Take to the Tees includes several events at the Tees Barrage, including the River Rat Race, in which 700 hardy souls will splash, jump, kayak, climb and run around a unique 10 kilometre course on Sunday 29 August.
Two events normally held at Preston Park are relocated to be part of Take to the Tees this year - the Stockton Summer Show at Stockton Riverside includes a circus and other family entertainment on 28-30 August, with ARC in the Park hosting a special Catch 22 Comedy Club and music from tribute band Beatlemania at the Tees Barrage on 27 and 28 August.
Full details are at www.stockton.gov.uk.