Friday, 9 August 2013

Raft Race 2013

This evening we wandered down  to the harbour to watch the annual raft race. It is just one of many events held in the town, which are a bit quirky, steeped in tradition and lots of fun. The race was revived several years ago by the Pilot Gig Club. It is open to any team with at least four members. Many local businesses and clubs take on the challenge of designing and building their own raft, and entering into an hour of what can only be described as organised chaos!!

The race starts at the old slipway by The Sloop Inn (reputed to be the oldest pub in St Ives). The teams have to row or paddle their raft across the harbour to the lifeboat station slipway, where they pick up their mermaid (usually a child of one of the rowers dressed as a maiden of the sea). They then have to paddle to Smeatons Pier to pick up a token, and then paddle back to the start. The mermaid then runs up the slipway to hand the token to the Mayor, and be declared the winner.

Flour bombs are sold, and the teams - as well as the assembled crowd - get pelted with these bombs by children. I think the flour bombs are to stop the kids pelting the contestants with eggs (children can always be relied upon to up the ante when it comes to this kind of event). Flour and water make for a wonderfully gluey substance, and my flip flops were welded to the floor quite quickly.

This year the sailing club that Marc belongs to were determined to win, having lost out in controversial circumstances last year. Marc wasn't actually part of the crew, but we shouted support from our vantage point. Olly was transfixed by the different rafts, and indeed the entire race. There was a Chinese Dragon (sailing club entry), a Smurf raft (surf life saving club entry), the cast of Grease (who sadly capsized before the race had begun), a royal entry (complete with baby George) and several others.

It was a beautiful sunny evening, and the harbour walls were packed with spectators. It was an exciting race, and the sailing club took the lead from the start. You could see the determination on their faces as the paddled into the sun to pick up their mermaid and token. Marc and I thought that there may have been a couple of ringers* in the team, but we buried our suspicions to revel in the glory of their emphatic win. Hoorah!!

Alfie disappeared soon after we got down to the harbour, and was seen hurling flour bombs like a true pro. He was covered in flour and soaked through by the end of the race. I was pelted from behind by a flour bomb. Marc pointed out that my rear end had made for a fool proof target. He then got hit in the chest, and some went up his nose. Pity.

After the race was over, Gramps treated us all to MooMaid ice creams. I had 'Shipwreck' - seasalt caramel and honeycomb. Delicious. We ate them walking up Fore Street towards Porthmeor Beach, Alfie shivering all the way. Not a bad way to start the weekend.

Leanne xx

* ringer - person or persons used to secure an unfair advantage during a competition. In this case possible gig rowers.


  1. That looks like a lot of fun! It must be great to live so near the water. Alfie looks equal parts miserable and thrilled. Your ice cream sounds incredible!

  2. What an awesome tradition! I'd love to go to this raft race!
    Flour up the nose is a small price to pay for a bottom comment!! LOL...
    Have a great weekend,
    PS... My daughter would be thrilled to be a mermaid at the race!

  3. Sounds wonderful. I love things that bring the whole community together for some fun. Can't believe I didn't discover that ice-cream when I was there. Hope you are enjoying the rest of your weekend.

  4. Well you've just made your local area even MORE appealing to me, if that were possible! It sounds like a lot of fun. I really want a "Shipwreck" ice cream now. Seasalt caramel - oh yum. xx