LOCAL charities were left shocked last week following the announcement that they will miss out on thousands of pounds of funding when the Swindon Half Marathon changes its sponsor.

The event, which is the biggest sporting event in the town’s calendar, will be sponsored by the British Heart Foundation from next year after Nationwide announced it would withdraw its funding.

Although the future of the event is now secure, runners will no longer have the chance to choose which charity they want to run in aid of. Instead, all money raised will go to the BHF.

Fortunately, the Rotary Club of Swindon Phoenix has been able to throw a lifeline after organising a Dragon Boat Race which will see local charities and Rotary benefit.

Working with Dragon Boat Events Ltd, the town’s newest Rotary Club will host the event at Coate Water on June 30 and teams will be able to raise sponsorship money for causes close to their hearts.

President Paul Parfrey hoped the event would be welcomed by local charities, many of which have been helped massively by participants in the Swindon Half Marathon in recent years.

He said: “Dragon Boat Racing is an old Chinese sport brought to the UK, and has raised millions of pounds for charities over the past few years.

“This will be a great event to really put Swindon on the map, and will be a huge asset to our local charities and a marvellous opportunity for companies and organisations to team build whilst supporting their favourite cause.”

Chinese Style Dragon Boats will be supplied on the day with medals and a trophy awarded to those who ‘paddle’ the fastest.

Teams will be encouraged to enter in fancy dress, but it is not compulsory.

Each team gets a minimum of three races of a 250m course and a chance to enter the finals at the end of the day. Coate Water has the capacity to hold a six-boat final.

The Rotary Club of Swindon Phoenix would like to hear from any organisations or businesses who are willing to help sponsor the event.

For more details and information on sponsorship or entering a team email swindondragonboat@gmail.com.