Lewes-Newhaven Raft Race

Last year I watched the Lewes-Newhaven raft race from Southease Bridge. An hour before the first raft was scheduled to arrive there were already hundreds of people collected on the bridge and on the towpaths either side. They were well prepared. They had brought eggs, flour bombs and buckets of water, to throw at the rafters as they went under the bridge. My group had brought flour and food colouring, and we spent some time making our own gooey projectiles, an activity which greatly pleased everybody concerned, from four to forty. The first raft through took the brunt of the attack; they came well prepared, their dustbin-lid defence system as well thought out as the dynamics of their craft. But the bridge people were too canny to use all their firepower on the early rafts: the nearer the back of the field, the slower the rafts moved, and the easier meat they were. There’s no feeling quite like hitting a rafter on the head with a reverse swing egg.

Lewes isn’t the only place where there is an annual raft race, but it I’ll bet there’s nowhere where these homemade craft are attacked with such enthusiasm and invention. There’s something of the Bonfire spirit in the occasion, as locals let off steam in a bout of annual mayhem. A bit of advice? Throw your missile high so it reaches its apex halfway between the bank and the prow of the raft: it’s much more likely to score a hit. And watch out for the firemen: they fight back. AL

That sinking feeling: some rafts are better than others
From Lewes Rowing Club, River Ouse, Lewes
When? 12.40pm (or when tide turns)
How Much? Flour 86p; Eggs 89p
Waitrose Deliver
(w) Website