Madcap fun in the sun at Boxing Day raft race

Words and photos by Dave Barry 

Scarborough RNLI rescued a damsel in distress during the 46th Boxing Day raft race.

She was plucked from the water and hauled aboard the team’s flimsy craft as it circumnavigated the harbour.

The raft was capsized by another team, possibly in retaliation for the RNLI quartet tipping another raft into the harbour from the Golden Ball slipway, just before the start.

Nine rafts took part in the madcap mayhem, watched by hundreds of people standing on the piers, roadside and pontoons in bright sunshine.

Good-natured fighting broke out as the teams assembled on the slipway, eggs and flour-bags being swatted away with paddles.

In a sign of the times, everyone wore wet and dry suits. “It used to be frowned upon by the old school”, commented Bryan Bayes. “They’re all wimps now”.

Bryan’s nephew Dan Bayes was part of the motley crew aboard the longest serving raft. His firm Technicolour sponsors the orange vessel, which has been dusted off every Boxing Day for 15 years. It didn’t race so much as lie in wait at the halfway point, by the rusting hulk of the Regal Lady, to intercept and attack the competitors, some of whom, it is alleged, were sober.

The race was won by Fire Cracker, which took five minutes. It was followed by Walk on Water, Northside Wolves, Queen Ann’s Review and the Sub-Aqua Club.

Bringing up the rear were So What, Speeding, Floating Seamen and Sh*t Raft.

Started by Colin Lawson, the race was organised by Matt Newsome of the Sub-Aqua Club, which organised a safety boat in case of problems. 

Only half the harbour was used. The other half was out of bounds as it was low tide.

The Boxing Day shenanigens began with the equally traditional fancy-dress football match organised by the Fisherman and Firemen Charity Fund on the south beach and a line of coins on the kerb, starting at the lifeboathouse.

Organiser Liz Blades said the match originated in 1893 when five men on a fishing smack were lost at sea during a storm. The idea was to raise money to support their dependents. The first match, at Ebor football ground near the top of Prospect Road, was watched by 1,500 people and raised £9, 11 shillings and sixpence.