By ANNE-MARIE EMERSON
THE sun shone, the temperature soared, the wind stayed away, and at least 15,000 people poured on to the banks of the Whanganui River to see the action at the Wanganui Flying Lap meet at the weekend.
As well as the ear-rattling hydroplanes, spectators were treated to displays from the RNZAF, the Army and Wanganui Coastguard.
An RNZAF Iroquois and the Coastguard performed a daring "rescue" of a person who was "in trouble" in the river, showing the Iroquois' impressive manoeuvring skills.
Light-hearted entertainment was provided by The Rock's Bird Man competition, which took place about 12.30pm on Sunday.
Bizarre contraptions of all kinds made it down the purpose-built ramp and into the river - the aim being to go as far as possible and look ridiculous on the way.
The $500 prize for the longest distance travelled was, unsurprisingly, a small motorbike ridden by Grant Pedder.
Most creative contraption, also a $500 prize, was taken out by Jeremy Shepherd in his "magnificent flying machine" an aeroplane made of polystyrene.
If there had been a prize for most dangerous vehicle it would have been won hands-down by Cameron Soulsby and Andrew McLeod, who rode a tandem piece of machinery made out of several old bicycles, wood, peacock feathers, and computer parts.
The contraption barely made it down the ramp, and Mr Soulsby told the Chronicle the pair "needed to update their software" before next year's competition.
Organiser Denise Mougham said she was "buzzing" after the event finished.
"We had an awesome turn-out of people at least double what we had last year. There were easily 15,000 people there over the weekend."
Mrs Mougham said it was great to see Wanganui people getting into the carnival atmosphere.
"People brought down their family and deck chairs and chilly bins and had a great day out by the river."
Unlike last year, the City Bridge was closed to traffic and spectators were three-deep during racing.
"It was good having the bridge closed because it was safer for families to watch up there."
Only two incidents marred the brilliant weekend.
A spectator had to be admitted to hospital after he suffered a stroke. The man's condition was not available last night.
On Sunday afternoon racing had to be stopped around 3pm when the tide turned and the river became choppy. After a 30-minute break, racing resumed.
Mrs Mougham said she was grateful for the "huge support" from sponsors, local businesses and the council, and she promised next year's meet will be bigger and better.
"I want to thank Wanganui for supporting [the event] it will be even better in 2009."
PICTURED: The man who had the crowd on the edge of their seats Otorohonga's Scott Coker in Fair Warning just escapes a flip on the northern turn of yesterday's race course on the Whanganui River. Coker eventually finished a close fourth in the Flying Lap event, the drawcard of the Downtown Thunder meeting, which drew 60 boats to the River City.
By ANNE-MARIE EMERSON