1 river, 2 towns, 500 rafters – Rock the Boat and save the music

April 2018 PRESS RELEASE : 

OUSEDAY raft race and regatta Sunday July 1st 2018

 FIREWORKS are to be banned to save the annual Ouseday raft race and regatta, to be held on Sunday July 1st.

Stewards will be on patrol and spectators will be asked to point out anyone throwing bangers or other dangerous missiles. Organisers have also invited police to attend after consulting the official safety advisory group formed by councils and emergency services.

Organisers considered cancelling the regatta after two rafters were injured last year by fireworks thrown during the main event, the annual Lewes to Newhaven charity raft race.  One man was off work for months and has still not fully recovered. His knee was blown open to the bone.

Rafters were also bombarded with 20,000 eggs, some of them hard boiled, frozen tomatoes, ice cubes, buckets of pig excrement and even a metal ball hidden in a bag of flour.

Raw eggs have been a part of the tradition since the Round Table raft race began 43 years ago, but the deluge has increased dramatically since the event was revived as part of a new regatta in 2015. A regatta spokesman said: “We all agreed it would be wrong to let this much-loved event be destroyed by the actions of a foolish few, so we are asking everyone to help with Operation Where’s The Wally? Anyone throwing fireworks or similar will be located and expelled.

“We do not condone any missiles. We understand raw eggs are traditional, part of the fun, but 20,000 is an obscene waste of food when so many in society are in need.

We ask everyone to be sensible, safe, restrict any eggs to a minimum – and please, save your fireworks for Bonfire Night, or another person may be hurt and we will not want to do this again.”

More than 500 people are expected to take to water for Ouseday events in the river at Malling Recreation Ground in Lewes and at Newhaven Harbour. Up to 35 rafts will line up for the charity raft race, which this year has the musical theme Rock the Boat. Crews can apply for entry forms through the regatta website at Ouseday.Com or by sending an email to:  lewesraftrace@gmail.com

Other events will include an opening boat parade, with pirates singing sea shanties, canoe races, a seven-mile rowing boat race that pitches Lewes versus Newhaven and a dramatic sprint race between the legendary Lewes bonfire societies. New races and festivities will be staged at Newhaven at the same time.

Regatta is organised by the Riffrafters group, formed with representatives from Lewes Rowing Club, Round Table, Lewes Gig Club and both Lewes and Newhaven town councils. For the second year running the main sponsor is Oakley Property and a sum of £5,000 was contributed by a donor who wants to remain anonymous.

Round Table chairman Liam Jackson said: “We were all shocked and saddened by the injuries suffered last year, to the point where we were not sure we wanted to go on. But we were persuaded by the encouragement of many people, including the rafters who have such fun, the charities who really need the funds and the sponsors who cover our costs. They all urged us to keep trying to find a way, including most incredibly the rafter who was so badly injured. We felt we could not let them all down. I hope this year people will understand and help us keep everyone safe.” Liam added: “We invite all people daft enough to paddle seven miles down to the sea to complete an entry form while we still have places. This year we will be raising funds for a range of local charities, including boating for the disabled. We will also be announcing a special new feature to make the race even more magical, so watch this space.” Main sponsor Chris Oakley, executive chairman of Oakley Property said: “We are delighted to be the main sponsor again. Last year Ouseday felt like a great family day out on the water for our beautiful town and it was great to see the sense of community and coming together that the event generated.  We were proud to be part of this last year and jumped at the chance to be main sponsors again and give something back to the community that supports our business. ”

At fellow sponsors Lawson Lewis Blakers solicitors, a spokesman said: “We are delighted to sponsor this special community event.”

 Police appealed for witnesses after last year’s incidents and detectives carried out interviews after a number of tip-offs including mobile phone photos. But they were unable to bring charges against any individuals. Riffrafters secretary John Lamb said: “Ouseday unites the community, raises money for local charities and celebrates the wonderful River Ouse. It takes a year to plan, months to organise with hundreds of volunteers and supporters, and it is all over in less than the length of one tide – but there is nothing half so worth doing as messing about at Ouseday.”

This year Newhaven firm Cutts Marine will be taking on the challenge of organising a fleet of safety boats on the river. Skipper Trevor Cutler, who is also station officer for the Newhaven Maritime Coastguard service, said: “We will need as many trained crew as we can get, so anyone interested in volunteering for a wonderful and worthwhile day on the river, please contact me.” Email Trevor at: info@cuttsmarine.com

Volunteers are also needed to help with arrangements on land, managed by Triple A Event Security of Hove. Anyone with either crowd management or safety training is asked to contact secretary John Lamb on 07877 972375 or by email at john.lamb@abilitymagazine.org.uk

Ouseday.com provided by NTD