Lynmouth Raft Race

Britain plays proud host to some of the oddest events in the world. Cheese rolling, stinging nettle eating and snail racing spring to mind…

Yesterday, I trotted off to nearby Lynmouth to watch one of the lesser known oddities of these shores, North Devon’s annual Lynmouth Raft Race.

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The spectators gathered along the harbour edge beneath a threatening sky, buoyed up on Exmoor Ale, Addlestone’s and Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer (love that stuff), to watch eight rafts in fancy dress parade along Riverside Road to the slipway.

Providing the entertainment were two teams of Thunderbirds, including Lady Penelope and her FAB1, two ladies in pink on a big banana boat, a team of hard-hatted white-van men with a raft made from the roof of a Ford Transit, a team of ancient Egyptians, some pirates whose raft (accidentally) floated somewhere just beneath the waves, and a bunch of men in combat fatigues making use of a rather ingenious bicycle-powered waterwheel.

Eight ridiculous rafts launched into the chilly waters of the Bristol Channel. Seven made it to the buoy and back. The first to brave the drink, The Punks, sank as soon as they left the slipway. The crowd loved it. There’s nothing like a good capsize to get people’s spirits up.  It’s like watching Formula 1 – the crashes are the best bits.

Anywhere else in the world the crowd would cheer on the participants. I mean, the paddlers had dressed in silly outfits, none of which involved wetsuits or life jackets, and put themselves at the mercy of the icy waves purely for entertainment. That’s impressive stuff and deserves a hearty slap on the back, right?

But no! Here the audience pelted the participants with water bombs and bags of flour. Everyone got involved. Everyone got messy. It was brilliant fun. And it was right on my doorstep. Post-trip bonus!

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