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Sink or swim in Minehead RNLI raft race
A FAMILIAR face was among dozens of rafting enthusiasts who battled choppy seas to take part in Minehead RNLI’s biggest fundraising event of the year.
More than 40 teams entered the 34th annual Blue Anchor to Minehead raft race on Saturday, with 25 tackling the full length course while numerous novelty entries opted for the shorter route across Minehead bay.
Thousands of spectators turned out to watch as the Wonder Wye rafting team from Hereford maintained its almost unbroken run of successes in the race, winning both the men’s and women’s classes.
Staunch lifeboat supporters from the Valiant Soldier Inn, in Roadwater, crewed the first local raft home while the fancy dress section was won by James Bosley from Minehead.
Race organiser Derek Williams said the weather had been “more or less ideal” for the event, but one of the casualties of a stiff north-westerly breeze was the Optomen Television team, skippered by the presenter of TV show Grand Designs, Kevin McCloud.
Their raft had to be towed by Minehead’s Atlantic 85 lifeboat for much of the three-mile course before being cast off to cross the finish line under its own power, but the crew has salvaged something from the day – winning the cup for most original vessel.
The Mike Arnold Trophy is awarded annually to the entry which displays the most ingenuity in construction.
And collecting it will be some consolation, at least, for a team which was never going to pose any kind of threat to seasoned competitors paddling sleek, home-built catamarans.
The Optomen raft, made out of timber and plastic barrels, may have complied with the event’s construction rules but it turned out to have the sea-keeping qualities of a breeze block.
Race organiser Derek Williams said the trophy was well deserved.
“Apart from the fact that it was one of the few entries which resembled a traditional raft the team actually built it on the beach on the day, which we thought was a very enterprising thing to do,” he said.
“It may not have been a grand design but it was certainly in keeping with the spirit of the race – and we are very grateful to Kevin and his team for taking part and entering into the real spirit of the event.”
The annual event has raised more than £250,000 for the RNLI since it began, a total which thousands more pounds are expected to be added to once proceeds from this year have been totted up.
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