Lewes to Newhaven Raft Race reborn with added regatta

Lewes to Newhaven raft race 2014
Lewes to Newhaven raft race 2014

A regatta of boats and canoe races will be part of the Lewes to Newhaven Raft Race as the event returns bigger and better than ever before.

Organisers believe it will be the first regatta held on the River Ouse in Lewes for more than 100 years.

And the raft race will travel through the middle of the town for the first time in its 40-year history, giving viewers the chance to throw the traditional missiles of eggs and flour bombs at competitors.

Lewes Rowing Club and Lewes Round Table are keen for it to be a summer highlight that will become as much of a fixture as Bonfire.

It will be held on Sunday July 19 with competitors racing from Lewes to Newhaven on rafts decorated in a 1970s theme to celebrate the event’s 40th anniversary.

Round Table chairman Matt Craig said: “The raft race normally starts south of the town by the railway land, meaning most of the race down to Newhaven goes unseen.

“This new route race will start near Tesco and go through the town centre, under Cliffe Bridge.

“There will be more than enough riverbank for the whole town to watch, cheer, laugh and throw the usual flour bombs.”

Rowing Club secretary Brendon Parsons said: “As far as we can tell, the last time anyone organised anything like this was in 1910, when the club held something called a Venetian Night on the Pells Pond.

“Boaters learn never to do anything in a hurry, but after one hundred and five years I think it is time we had another party on the Ouse – and the whole town is invited.”

The rowing club’s flotilla will include fishing boats, motor boats, yachts, hand-built skiffs and canoes. Leading the way will be the steam launch Orca.

Sailing up and down the river, the rowing club’s members will announce the start of festivities with flags and sirens. The regatta is being managed by experienced sailor David Sykes. There will also be canoe and kayak races.

Lewes firefighters and Brewers decorators have been among the first to book a space in the raft race.

Matt added: “As it is a special race this year we hope to have a dozen or so entrants, all decked out to remind us of the days of glam rock, Abba and Captain Pugwash. It should be great fun.

“Each raft is sponsored so can raise money for any cause the racers choose. We also collect among the spectators and this will be given to a charity chosen by Round Table.”

Special size limitations will be included this year to make sure all rafts can safely travel under Cliffe Bridge.

The raft race is open for entries. It will enable teams to raise money for charity.

To enter contact Matt Craig through the Round Table website at www.lewes-and-district.roundtable.co.uk

To get updates on the regatta or learn more about boating visit www.lewesrowingclub.co.uk

If you were in that first ever raft race from Lewes to Newhaven, the Round Table would love to hear from you. Call Matt Craig on 01273 813093.