THE Red Arrows will be returning to Whitby Regatta this year, but it may be for the final time.
The world famous RAF display team are a popular attraction at Whitby’s largest festival but spiralling costs of the event mean the regatta, in its current format, is at risk unless the community rallies to its aid and backs it financially.
The regatta is funded completely by public donations and sponsorship by businesses, but regatta vice-president Ivor Greer said the current economic downturn has meant people are less willing to put their hands in their pockets to support the festival.
Mr Greer added: “One of the decisions we had to make was could we afford the Red Arrows?
“The committee has made a decision that we will fund them this year but it may be the last year because we can’t keep it up.”
Each year the Regatta costs around £40,000 to operate and draws tens of thousands of visitors to the town, providing a huge boost to the local economy.
The Regatta committee are therefore asking local businesses to get involved and ensure the 172-year-old festival can continue in its current format.
This includes the extremely popular entertainments such as the Red Arrows - which cost £11,000 alone - but it also means that other services must be provided, such as medical and first aid cover.
The event is completely free to visitors and so the organisers, who are mostly unpaid volunteers, rely heavily on donations from members of the public over the weekend.
Mr Greer added: “The chips are down, how much does Whitby want its biggest event?”
“Whitby Regatta is for the people of Whitby and Whitby business need to take hold of it.
“It’s not a fact that should be hidden because the Regatta is for the Whitby community.
“If we don’t pull together you will have a Regatta that’s only the rowing races, you will lose the carnival aspect of it.”
This year’s Regatta will take place on 18-20 August, with the Red Arrows appearing on the Sunday at midday.
Following their appearance at last year’s Regatta, tragedy twice struck the Red Arrows display team as two team members were killed while on duty.
Just a week after the Whitby display Flt Lt Jon Egging was killed when his Hawk T1 jet crashed near Bournemouth Airport and in November Flt LT Sean Cunningham was killed when he was ejected from his aircraft while on the ground at the team’s RAF Scampton base.
However the Red Arrows continue to be one of the most popular display teams in the world and list Whitby as among their favourite locations to perform.
The team said: “The Red Arrows are delighted to once again by representing the Royal Air Force at the Whitby Regatta.
“After a successful training season in the UK and Cyprus the Red Arrows are all set to start the summer display season.
“As well as displaying in the air, some of the Red Arrows ground crew will be at the Regatta.
“The serving Royal Air Force men and women who support the team throughout the season are proud to have the opportunity to answer questions from members of the public.
“It is always a pleasure for the team to interact with the public where possible and the Whitby Regatta is a fantastic event for this.”
Contributions to the Regatta can be forwarded to the secretary by using the address P.O. Box 50, Whitby, YO21 3YN.