It is the brainchild of Lee Robinson, of Stubbs Copse, the local woodland company which already has an impressive record in the race, having built the Red Lion pub’s winning bathtub over the past few years. The business is also sponsor of the 2014 event.
This year sees the woodyard entering its own bathtub for the first time and Lee and his team are busy creating their new ‘log’ design, which will be crewed by Lee’s wife, Harriet, and a landscaper friend, as well as two bathtubs for the Red Lion. Adding to the competitive element, Lee and Harriet will be going head-to-head to take the honours, as he will again be a crew member on one of the Red Lion bathtubs.
“Our woodyard bathtub should do well, if it works,” says Lee with a laugh. “It’s something new and different, made to look like logs. I’ve been involved with the race for several years now and we haven’t had one sink yet.
“Is it all really competitive? Yes and no. It’s always a good bit of fun and we look on it as a laugh, though some people do take it very seriously. It’s the luck of the draw - it all depends on how you get away at the start, what the tide is like and, of course, whether your bathtub is going to float or sink!”
The annual bathtub race, one of the highlights of Arundel Festival, is a challenge for contestants with a sense of fun, competitive spirit and a passion for water.
Enthusiasm and entertainment value are so high that no matter the weather, the river banks are always packed with spectators loudly cheering on their favourite teams - or hoping some of the rivals will go under.
About 5,000 people will be lining the riverside to watch teams from businesses and charities join in this wacky race where weird and wonderful innovative designs take to the water and brave the fast-flowing river.
Action boats and the harbourmaster ensure entrants are safe in their pursuit of victory or their mission of simply staying afloat. The vessels disembark from the Waterside Tea Gardens and Bistro and many of them will not have been tried out on the water until then, so the potential for sinking is considerable. Some entrants fall victim to the classic mistake of forgetting to make sure the bath plug is in.
Alice Glimmer, maker of the Arundel Festival Volunteer Committee tub, explained where it all went wrong last year.
”It was a really fun teamwork exercise, devising and building our bathtub vessel. Tragically, we were scuppered by a well-meaning friend who failed to attach our bath plug securely, so when we actually came to launch on the day, water started pouring in straight away.
“It was all a good laugh though, and I would encourage businesses to get involved. It is such a fantastic event with the beautiful scenery on the water, Arundel castle in the background, the atmosphere from the crowds and the hilarious hijinks of the crews. It’s truly not to be missed.”
Several awards are on offer for competitors. Last year, the Red Lion team were the winners once again, with The Owl and the Pussycat, from Poling Action Grou,p runners-up and third place going to Bartholomews Agri Food, from Chichester.
The prize for best design went to ‘Tanks alot’ by Black and White Scaffolding and the winners of the best-dressed prize were ‘The Mexicans’ from Spirit FM.
This year, the bathtub event is raising money for Crossroads Care South Central, a local care provider based in Climping, which gives much-needed respite care to carers who support adults and children with ongoing care needs.
For information on how to enter this year’s race, visit www.arundelfestival.co.uk