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Gerald McCarthy hopes to revive Herne Bay raft race

By Jack Dyson

Organisers are hoping to revive Herne Bay’s raft race – about 40 years since it last took place on the seafront.

The family-friendly event was once a regular fixture in the town, drawing thousands of spectators to Central Parade as teams and businesses raced each other in homemade boats.

It, however, has not returned to the seaside since the 1980s.

A raft capsizing during the Port of Dover Community Regatta earlier this year
A raft capsizing during the Port of Dover Community Regatta earlier this year

Gerald McCarthy, from the BayPromoTeam, says he is hoping to bring it back as a “one-off” at the end of July.

“It could be a goer for next summer,” he said. “We’re looking to bring this back to life as a one-off.

“From my memory, it was hilarious getting teams of five or six per raft going along a course of perhaps a few hundred metres.

“Very few of the rafts, which were created on people’s gardens or drives, floated for more than five minutes. That was part of the fun of it; it was like It’s a Knockout on the water.”

When it last took place, entrants would wear fancy dress and attempt to reach the finish line in rafts made from a range of materials, including wooden pallets and metal barrels.

Mr McCarthy will meet local clubs to gauge their opinions on the event and to find out if they would be willing to help coordinate it or enter a raft into the race.

“It looks as if this is something that could be done next year,” he added.

Gerald McCarthy of the BayPromoTeam
Gerald McCarthy of the BayPromoTeam

“We’re sure the interest is there and that the local authority will work with us.

“There’s no real reason for this not to go ahead, unless Mother Nature decides to give us a perfect storm on the day.”

The event will be open to community groups, clubs and businesses to enter crews of up to six people after donating a fee to a charity of their choice.

Mr McCarthy - who also organises the Zombie Crawl, Sci-fi by the Sea and the air show - thinks thousands of people would flock to Herne Bay to watch the race.

“It would be a mad carnival on the water,” he continued.

“So many people, such as me, have fond memories of the last race. I remember my father putting in an entry and all of the competing rafts would try to put each other off.

“It’s memories like that would be good to create for a new generation.”

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