THOUSANDS of spectators lined Poole Quay for the chaotic annual New Year bath tub race.

Spirits were high as teams, decked out in fancy dress, braved the cold water to race each other along the length of the quay.

One of the unusual vessels was under the water more than 20 minutes before the race even started.

And most participants, along with a high percentage of the spectators, ended up covered in flour or raw eggs.

Eggs were hurled in both directions, flares were let off and flour drifted through the air.

There was a wide range of themes this year with men dressed as old ladies on The Golden Girls tub, a team dressed as Abba, pirates, centurions and a team covered in union flags.

Crowds were five or six deep with spectators standing on benches, walls and even trying to scale potted palm trees.

Bemused tourist Julie North from London said: “We just came out for a walk from our hotel and were surprised to see so many people around.

“We didn’t know this was going on but it seems quite fun and there’s a good atmosphere so it’s added to our visit.

“We’ve never been to Poole before but we have friends that come down this way often and they recommended it to us.”

Joyce Davies and her family from Poole were there enjoying the New Year’s Day sunshine.

She said: “It has become a tradition that the whole family comes down and watches this every year. It always makes the kids laugh when they sink or fall in the water.”

Helen and Pete Makin, visiting from Weymouth, said: “We are visiting friends in Poole today so we thought we could come early for this. It’s a good chance to get out and about after being cooped up indoors all Christmas.”

The event attracts thousands to Poole every New Year’s Day and is a boost to businesses. There were long queues at coffee shops and bars throughout the morning.