Photo gallery:New photographs of Spectacular show - up, up and away on day one of the Lowestoft Air Festival

There were highs and lows at the opening day of the Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival – but cancellations and rain couldn't stop a crowd of 172,000 spectators enjoying the spectacular stunts.

The first day of the annual show, now in its 15th year, opened with the event's first ever sail past featuring vessels from the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club based in the town. The day continued with a 'pop and drop' display by the Tigers skydiving team, stunts by a Grob Tutor, the Aerostars, the Messerschmitt, a BAe Hawk, Breitling wingwalkers, US special forces planes, the Blades and the Pitts. The day ended with a stunning show by the Red Arrows.

People started gathering along the sea front early in morning with festival regulars arriving just after dawn to find good spot on the beach. By 11am huge crowds were lining the promenade.

The weather was a mix of sunshine and showers, but the dark clouds had completely cleared away by 4.30pm - in time for the arrival of the Red Arrows. The RAF aerobatics team, having displayed at all but one of the Lowestoft air shows, put on a colourful crowd-pleasing finale in their Hawks T1 training jets and will be back again today to open the show at approximately 12.30pm.

There was, however, some disappointment for the crowd with a fly past by a RAF Tornado from RAF Marham being cancelled due to a fuel leak and displays by an RAF Sea King search and rescue helicopter and an air ambulance cancelled after they were called out to emergencies.

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Bad weather elsewhere was to blame for the cancellation of a pair of American P51 Mustangs which could not leave their base due to the conditions.

Organisers of the air show are hoping some 200,000 will throng to the seafront esplanade for today's activities.

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Paul Bayfield, managing director of Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival Ltd – the not-for-profit company behind the major event, said: 'I think we have really had a good crowd and a good day.

'The most important thing is that there seems to be a lot of stickers around from money being donated, which is essential.

'The message is that the weather forecast is looking really good for today, which is always the busiest day anyway, and I am sure that lots of people will turn out for what is a community event, run by the community for the benefit of the community.'

This year visitors are being asked to pay a �3 entry donation – up �1 from last year. Organisers have been urging people to put their hands a little deeper into their pockets to ensure the event, which last year made a loss of �39,000 after torrential rain and this year failed to secure a major sponsor, can continue.

Yesterday some 300 volunteers were on the seafront collecting donations – and they will be out in force again today.

Amongst them will be members of Lowestoft Signing Choir.

Wearing a bright pink high-visibility vest and greeting visitors as they arrived at Royal Plain yesterday, choir leader Elizabeth Bloice said: 'The atmosphere is great. We have such good fun and the people are lovely. Most of them have been more than happy to pay the donation.'

The 50-strong choir has been volunteering at the air show for the past four years and in return receives a �300 charitable donation.

'That money is vital to us,' said Elizabeth. 'And being part of the air show also helps raise our profile. We have both deaf and hearing members here today. Our main aim as a choir is to break down barriers and this is the perfect place to do that.'

Last night, St John Ambulance's Suffolk commander Tony Curd said their crews dealt with 'the usual number of patients given an event of this size', including a number of wasp stings and minor ailments.

Insp Stuart Grimsey of Suffolk Police hailed a 'real team effort' as the emergency services had a 'very quiet' first day.

'We have had three reports of missing children, who were all quickly reunited with their families, and one report of drunken behaviour involving a small group of youngsters that was quickly dealt with,' he said.

Today's displays are expected to take place between 12.30pm and 5pm.

• Check the website for live updates.

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