Lewes to Newhaven Raft Race 2007

On Sunday 29th July the bonfire society set off on its epic voyage to Newhaven departing from the Rowing Club in Lewes, on our well built red and black liveried raft “The Plotter”. After a little pre race warm up (involving eggs, flour and rather a lot of water) the sixteen well dressed rafts set off heading south towards Newhaven, although we would later learn that only fifteen made it past the start as one sank just after leaving the moorings. After passing under the Lewes bypass we found ourselves in a comfortable 3rd position with a good distance between 2nd and 4th.

Prior to Southease we were caught up swiftly by a rather fast raft boasting a palm tree, of which managed to overtake and put us into 4th. With the 5th placed raft well back out of sight we slowed the pace slightly to save some energy, as we felt we may need to gain speed approaching Southease bridge as we had heard that a large crowd were patiently waiting to greet the rafts with everything from eggs and flour to buckets of water, tomatoes and even spaghetti bolognaise.

Just prior to the bridge a glance behind noticed a rather large grey castle seemingly cruising at high speed and catching us at an alarming rate. As it passed us, without a paddle in sight and just the roar of an outboard engine deviously smuggled on board back in Lewes and with several crew members dressed as King George they began pelting us with eggs and drenching us with their on board water canon. By the time we had shook them off we were close to the bridge at Southease where worryingly for us a rather large crowd had gathered.

With the large castle raft diverting the crowd’s attention by soaking them with water as they themselves were under attack, we decided to make a sprint through the bridge and avoid most of the flack. Not a chance. As we passed under the people above unleashed everything imaginable as we had predicted. Making clear we relaxed and wiped the egg yolks from our legs. Luckily our well designed roof had kept us relatively unscathed although the raft was looking a little like omelette mixture had exploded over it. Luckily the large castle we had left behind caught us up once again and preceded to wash down us and our raft with its water cannon and at that point we all agreed that Ouse water doesn’t taste that good.

We rowed on through Piddinghoe, with the strong tide pushing us faster and with no sight of any rafts catching us we settled in to a good gentle routine in readiness for the final stretch into Newhaven.

We passed the finish just prior to the swing bridge in a time of 1 hour 56 mins although our passage under the bridge wasn’t without a final barrage of eggs and water bombs descending from above. We ended in 4th place which for our first attempt was brilliant.

I would like to thank the rest of the crew, Kevin Duncton, Ben Horsfall, Rupert Knight, Tom Saunders and Katherine Duncton all of whom never at any point stopped paddling. I would like to thank Martin Benson and Gus Ross for their hard work in helping in the construction of our raft and Martin for the use of his workshop and transport. Also Mario Halsey and Julian Avis for assisting Martin in transporting the raft on the day. I would like especially to thank all those who came along and supported us and to all who have sponsored us and helped the team raise over £300 for the Newhaven Lifeboat. The whole crew had a fantastic day and enjoyed a very well organised event, which we would like to participate in next year. Well done and thank you to everybody.

Jonathan Wilkins (Captain)

Thanks to Barry Griffin @ www.free-events.co.uk for the above image.