James Bond or Del Trotter

The record crowd of several thousand spectators were delighted by one of the rafts entered in this year’s Annual Rye Raft Race organised by Rye and District Lions Club. Unbelievably, the raft crewed by Woody Plant Hire, was an actual Reliant Robin car. Therefore, the Lions were not sure if this was a James Bond amphibious car or an escapee from Only Fools and Horses. On seeing the crew of Batman and Robin, they were obviously the latter.

The Lions were pleased to see a total of eleven rafts competing in the event with eight finishing the course. The huge number of spectators lining the bank and the road bridge clapped with great enthusiasm the crew from the Ambrette Restaurant on each lap. The four man crew, whose raft seemed to have been constructed from a few planks on top of plastic blocks, capsized four times. After each capsize, the crew scrambled aboard to continue in the race.Some may have been surprised at the casual dress of Rye’s Mayor, Shaun Rodgers as he presented the trophies, but he had gamely helped to crew the raft from the Queens Head Inn and according to rumour ended up in the river. Crews and spectators had great fun in bombarding each other with copious quantities of flour and water bombs. All crew members were presented with a certificate which said they had survived the Race.

After the heavy rain of the previous day, the weather was perfect and the Lions car park quickly filled with some 400 cars. The stalls were crowded with the public who seemed to be even more generous with their donations and in “having a go” on the various stalls. The Lions are still finalising the total raised during the day, but they estimate that, including the raft sponsorship, a total of £8,000 was raised. The majority of this will be donated over the year to local charities and good causes. The 72 page Raft Race programme was a complete sell-out and the Lions appreciate the over 80 local shops and companies that advertise in it .

The overall winner was a raft crewed by a combined team from Lady Penelope Hairdressers and the Windmill Garage, Rolvenden who completed the course in 20 minutes 14 seconds, with their synchronised paddles flashing in the sun. Second was “The Good Ship Pritchard” crewed by Bournes in 21 minutes 44 seconds, winning the trophy for a crew of ten or more. The third raft to finish was from Atlas Industrial Park in a time of 23 minutes 55 seconds and they won the trophy for a crew of seven to nine. Fourth was Rye Bonfire Society in 24 minutes 30 seconds and fifth was Canton Marshall Arts in 26 minutes 38 seconds. The crew from the Queens Head, Rye, came in sixth in 30 minutes 15 seconds.

Another raft with a TV theme, Thunderbird, finished seventh with a time of 35 minutes 22 seconds. Woody Plant Hire, also known as Batman and Robin, in their Reliant Robin car finished in 39 minutes dead and after paddling such a heavy craft seemed it. They also deservedly won the award for the Most Original Raft. The rafts “Another Logistical Nightmare”, the Bedford Arms and the Ambrette Restaurant did not manage to complete the 3 laps. However, the Bedford Arms won the trophy for Best Fancy Dress and Rye Lions decided that the Ambrette Restaurant should receive a special award for their valiant efforts after so many capsizes.

The Lions wish to express their thanks to the people of Rye and others attending who gave such superb support on the day, the raft crews, the shops that provided prizes for their stalls, the Rye Harbour Master, James Bateman and his crew, Rye Harbour Marine for providing the rescue boats, St Johns Ambulance, the stall holders, Richie McGowan and his fellow musicians who entertained the public all afternoon. Thanks are also due to Jempsons Haulage for the loan of their trailer for the bands and all the Lions, their families and the Friends of Rye Lions for all their hard work on the day.

“Rye’s Own” October 2013

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