The Lewes - Newhaven Raft Race
Every summer the Lewes-Newhaven raft race sees a score-or-so of teams paddle down the river in home-made crafts, varying from sleek well-designed constructions designed to win to ramshackle Heath-Robinson affairs which barely make it past the starting line. Crews vary between three and ten; the craft are usually constructed of plastic barrels, planks and pieces of scaffolding. Every year there is a different fancy dress theme: this year it is ‘The Magic of the Musicals’.
‘The Battle of Trafalgar’ might be a more apt theme as the boats go under Southease Bridge, where the event turns into something of an orgy of food-throwing. Adults and children alike wait on the riverbanks and the bridge with an armoury of foodstuff, including eggs, flour-bombs and seaweed, which they hurl or tip at the poor rafters, who bring buckets and dustbin lids to protect themselves from the onslaught. This year the organisers have sent in a plea for the public to restrain from throwing objects at the competitors. In recent years ‘snipers’ have been firing hard-boiled eggs at rafters with powerful catapults, and there are rumours that some of the stuff being poured in buckets from the bridge is less than savoury in its content. It would be a pity if the anarchic element of the afternoon were lost, but if you do go along (the race starts in Lewes at noon and the first rafts reach the bridge abut an hour later) show some consideration to those taking part. “It’s like a war zone,” said one of last year’s competitors. “We ended up looking like a bowl of cake mix.” AL