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


Race: approx 2.15pm, Sunday July 1 2018
START: Malling Recreation Ground, Lewes
FINISH: Newhaven Harbour, approx

A THRILLING rowing race will pitch Lewes versus Newhaven in the 2018 Ouseday regatta.

Crews in two wooden boats will compete over an exhausting seven-mile course in the second annual challenge named Ouse the Daddy. Last year’s historic first race proved a thriller with the two boats Betty (Lewes) and Amelie (Newhaven) neck and neck as they went under the road bridge and entered Newhaven Harbour. At the last moment, Betty surged ahead to give first victory to Lewes, by less than a length. Newhaven is determined to get revenge in 2018, but crews from both boats have been training hard through the winter and spring months.

Mayors of both towns  called for residents to line the riverbank and cheer on their home boat, from the race start at Malling Recreation Ground, Lewes, all the way down to the finish line In Newhaven Harbour. Sponsors Oakley Property commissioned a unique new trophy for the race last year.

Lewes will again be represented by Betty, a 30ft bright green cutter with a crew of four rowers and cox from Lewes Rowing Club.

Newhaven will  again be represented by Amelie, a 32ft  bright yellow Cornish pilot gig with six rowers and cox from the town’s newly formed gig club.

Officials say the boats are fairly matched because Betty has a lighter build and so achieves the same speed as Amelie, despite having two fewer oars. (Betty is technically around 1.5 minutes slower over five miles)   Both boats should be able to maintain around 5 knots, making the race an hour long.

Crews have been training for months to perfect their technique and timing to increase speed and to build up stamina. Betty had to be restored at the rowing club after being rescued from a garden in Scotland, where she had been rotting for five years. Amelie has become a much-loved sight since arriving in Newhaven harbour in 2016, with hundreds of volunteers lining up to try rowing. Captains Ben Fowler and Nicola Tweedie will have the tough job of picking the crew with the best chance of winning. Wooden boats used to race on the Ouse but this is the first event for many years.

Ben built Betty out of Douglas Fir and oak 20 years ago and modelled her on the world’s oldest known wooden racing boat, the Royal Oak from 1780. Ben said:  “I raced Betty 15 times on the Thames so it is a great joy to see her ready to race again, for the honour of club and town and to bring rowing back to the River Ouse. Betty is a beautiful boat and I am only sorry that the Newhaven crew – a lovely bunch they are –  will only get to see her from the rear as we race ahead to the winning line. Ouse the Dady? Betty is.”

Newhaven skipper Nicola, chairman of Newhaven Gig Rowing Club, said: “It is a privilege to be representing Newhaven and the gig club in this race. The town has taken Amelie to its heart and the feeling is mutual.  Both boats are beautiful but Amelie will be showing Betty a clean pair of heels this time around. Ouse the Daddy? Amelie is.”

The Ouse the Daddy challenge is one of half a dozen races in the regatta, which includes events in Newhaven as well as Lewes. Main event is the annual Round Table charity raft race from Lewes to Newhaven.

In Lewes spectators will gather at Malling Recreation Ground, where all races start and a food fair is being organised.



Ouseday is organised by Riffrafters, a group formed by members of Lewes Rowing Club, Round Table, Newhaven Gig Club, both town councils and the Bonfire Council. Up to 500 paddlers and boaters will take to the Ouse.

Riffrafters chairman Gavin Keegan said: “The rowing race should once again provide a thrilling spectacle.”

Ouseday is also sponsored by solicitors Lawson Lewis-Blakers.

The regatta was created by Lewes Rowing Club and Round Table in 2015 after a decline in entries for the 40-year-old raft race. There were four rafts and a handful of spectators in 2014. The raft race start was moved from the rowing club in Cliffe to Wiley’s Bridge at the top of Lewes, allowing spectators to line the riverbank through the centre of town, many of them armed with flour bombs which are traditionally thrown at the paddlers. The rowing club added in extra events to create a regatta. The four rafts of 2014 instantly became 20 rafts, 20 boats, 20 canoes, four bonfire societies, 5,000 spectators and £10,000 was raised for local charities


BETTY: Cutter, green, 30ft length, 4ft 6ins beam, made from strip-planked Douglas Fir and oak with GRP sheathing, weight, light at 300 llbs. Four oars.  Modelled on The Royal Oak, oldest known wooden racing row boat (1780) now at Henley museum. Ben Fowler’s crew were last to race in Royal Oak in late 80s and he was inspired to build Betty, which he raced 15 times in annual Great River Race, 22 miles along the Thames between Richmond and Greenwich. Betty was rescued after five years in garden in Scotland, brought to Lewes Rowing Club and restored by members led by Ben and boat restorer Ryan Kearley.

More info at: lewesrowingclub.co.uk and ouseday.com

AMELIE: Cornish pilot gig, yellow, 32ft length, 4ft 10ins beam, built Cornish narrow leaf elm. Six oars. Gigs strong, stable even in rough sea but fast enough to reach vessels approaching port first and so win pilot contracts. Also recognised as one of first shore-based lifeboats with rescues recorded as early as 17th century. Max speed: take square root of waterline length in feet (32) multiply by 1.35 and get max displacement speed of 7.6 knots. Crew will be doing some practical on water testing to calculate how much energy is required to increase hull speed. Rowing at moderate pace for 30 mins burns 210 calories for 125lbs person and 311 cals for 185 lbs person, according to Harvard Health.

More info at Newhaven Gig Rowing Club website:  https://ousevalleywatersports.wordpress.com

HANDICAP: Betty and Amelie have been judged equal for Ouse the Daddy race by Mark Edwards, handicapping committee of the Great River Race. Mark calculated that Betty, lighter and shorter but with four oars against Amelie’s six oars, should be no more than five to 10 mins slower over 10 miles of water, effectively equal. (Mark was builder of Gloriana, the Queen’s 18-oar Diamond Jubilee Rowbarge)


Ben Fowler: fowlerco@fastnet.co.uk
Nicola Tweedie, chairman Newhaven Gig Rowing Club:
Via website:  http://ngrc.co.uk/