Lewes Bonfire societies take their rivalry to the river in a thrilling climax to the Lewes Regatta next month.
Cliffe, Waterloo, Borough, Commercial Square and South Street societies will fight a no-holds-barred battle on rafts to win a stunning custom-built trophy.
Thousands are expected to line the riverbank at Malling Recreation Ground as they compete for the Tesco Dash Trophy, sponsored by the supermarket and designed by a local artist. It features a stainless steel anchor mounted upside down on a driftwood base.
Lewes sculptor Serena Thirkell says her design harks back to the tradition when fishing boats inverted their anchors to signal the moment they thanked God for their catch and headed home.
Bonfire boys are more likely to head straight for the pub after their dramatic dash along the River Ouse from Wiley’s Bridge down to the Phoenix Causeway. Societies will hold their race immediately after the departure of the annual Lewes to Newhaven Raft Race, which also launches at Wiley’s Bridge and goes through town for the first time in its 40-year history. A record 20 rafts have signed for this event raising money for a wide range of charities.
Steve Richardson, chairman of Cliffe Bonfire Society, said: “We have long supported the annual raft race and this new regatta is a tremendous idea. Societies are delighted to have their own race especially as it is much shorter than the main raft marathon down to Newhaven. Cliffe is used to stealing the show on Bonfire Night and I have no doubt we will be just as outstanding on water as we are on land. The trophy is going to look magnificent on our mantelpiece. I urge the whole town to come and watch us triumph.”
Paul Slot, Waterloo Bonfire Society chair, said: “We are always keen to support anything that is good for the town, especially an event that benefits charity. This should be great fun to take part in and a great spectacle to watch.” But he was not intimidated by the challenge from Cliffe, saying: “If Cliffe get in trouble and start sinking, we may rescue them or we may not. It will depend on whether it was us that sank them.”
Sharon Reid, Commercial Square chair, said: “It is very exciting to be challenging for this wonderful trophy, which will look great at our headquarters when we are presented with it.” Glynis Riddle, assistant secretary of Borough – the town’s oldest bonfire society – said: “We just want to join the fun and do not mind who wins, as long as it is us. We want that fantastic trophy.” Jeff Silburn from South Street Bonfire Society said: “ We’re in – we want that trophy!”
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