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Donkin's World: Bad Rafting

...We had a brand new raft design, simple, neat and practical – a large chunk of polystyrene, sandwiched between two sheets of plywood. The only doubt was: would it hold four hefty Vikings?...

Richard Donkin and three pals again enter the River Lowther raft race.

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Raft racing is great for young people. I did it myself in my late teens. But when a bunch of fifty-something-year-olds decided it could be a good idea to enter the River Lowther raft race at Bampton Grange in the Lake District (for the second time), they should not have been surprised to find time catching up with them.

Still we had a brand new raft design, simple, neat and practical – a large chunk of polystyrene, sandwiched between two sheets of plywood. The only doubt was: would it hold four hefty Vikings? The Viking theme was adopted in place of last year’s pirate gear

We discovered the answer as we launched the raft for the race start and found we were paddling a submersible. Design fault exposed, the only option was to lose a Viking overboard. Since Seamus was the only one with a wet suit, and since he had vouched for the design, it was only fitting that he was allocated the paddle-and-push role.

The Viking theme enabled the team to take advantage of some commercial shirt sponsorship from BadViking.com. As last year, we looked a shoo-in for the most entertaining raft award. But Seamus was spotted walking on the bank, looking out, as Viking’s do, for any raping and pillaging opportunities.

Word got back to the organisers who disqualified us – rather petty, I thought. We entered a women’s team too this year whose professional approach was also stymied by poor raft design. They won the prize for being last. The winning raft, incidentally, was a rubber dinghy covered in a layer of plastic sheeting to look raft-like. No problem there then.


I could handle the bruised shins but the ricked back is going to take some time to mend. In fact, I can hardly walk. Next year, we’re wondering about an Hawaiian theme.

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