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Freemasons launch The Great East Kent Boat Race from five Kent beaches


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Ahoy there, shipmates! Freemasons really did roll their trouser legs up for a quick paddle for the launch of the Great East Kent Boat Race.

Nearly 200 model boats set sail from five Kent beaches yesterday (Sunday) in aid of charity.

Richard Murr with Tranquil Bird and Scarlet Fantasy at Minster, Sheppey, for the launch of the Freemasons' Great East Kent Boat Race
Richard Murr with Tranquil Bird and Scarlet Fantasy at Minster, Sheppey, for the launch of the Freemasons' Great East Kent Boat Race
Solicitor Richard Murr watches from the beach as his two boats take to the water at Minster, Sheppey, for the launch of the Freemasons' Great East Kent Boat Race
Solicitor Richard Murr watches from the beach as his two boats take to the water at Minster, Sheppey, for the launch of the Freemasons' Great East Kent Boat Race

Last-minute checks

The boats were all launched into the sea at 5pm to coincide with high tides. Each vessel, which had been allocated its own name, had to be assembled from a kit and then hand-painted. They were all made from wood with cotton sails and so are biodegradable.

Among those taking part was solicitor Richard Murr, an enthusiastic sailor from Faversham who has recently moved to Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey.

He rolled up both trouser legs as he waded into the waves to launch his two entries, Tranquil Bird and Scarlet Fantasy. He said sternly: "I am quietly confident having undertaken some secret modifications of my own."

He had flicked through the rule book and discovered he could add twin keels to the hull and a main sheet to keep the mini-mainsail on the diddy dinghy in line.

At The Leas at Minster many gently placed their boats into the water but others adopted a completely different technique and just hurled them into the sea as far as they could throw. John South, meanwhile, launched his using a fish rod. Some mumbled darkly that they thought that was "cheating".

John South used a fishing rod to help propel his boat at Minster Leas for the launch of the Freemasons' Great East Kent Boat Race
John South used a fishing rod to help propel his boat at Minster Leas for the launch of the Freemasons' Great East Kent Boat Race
Event marshals Paul Pavitt from Sheppey and Julian Friel from Maidstone at Minster Leas for the launch of the Freemasons' Great East Kent Boat Race
Event marshals Paul Pavitt from Sheppey and Julian Friel from Maidstone at Minster Leas for the launch of the Freemasons' Great East Kent Boat Race
Boats ready for the launch of the Freemasons' Great East Kent Boat Race
Boats ready for the launch of the Freemasons' Great East Kent Boat Race

The launch

Registration officers took photographs and sent images to a GPS website to record the start of each vessel.

Competitors will be able to log the progress of their boats using camera drones which will be flying over the shorelines. The winner, whose boat sails the furthest by Wednesday will receive £100. There are runners-up prizes of £75 and £50.

Proceeds will go towards the East Kent Province 2025 Festival in aid of the Masonic Charitable Fund.

The launch venues were St Margaret’s Bay, Dover; Nayland Rock shelter, main beach Margate; main beach Herne Bay; the seafront at Hythe and The Leas, Minster, Sheppey, near the Playa.

The boats on their way with the Second World War Maunsell sea forts in the background at Minster, Sheppey for the launch of the Freemasons' Great East Kent Boat Race
The boats on their way with the Second World War Maunsell sea forts in the background at Minster, Sheppey for the launch of the Freemasons' Great East Kent Boat Race
Two boats set sail at Minster Leas for the launch of the Freemasons' Great East Kent Boat Race
Two boats set sail at Minster Leas for the launch of the Freemasons' Great East Kent Boat Race
Waters edge at Minster for the launch of the Freemasons' Great East Kent Boat Race
Waters edge at Minster for the launch of the Freemasons' Great East Kent Boat Race

Update:

The winners were: 1. Ron Davis with Silver Rocket launched from Margate; 2. David Pearson with Diamond Skylark launched from Dover; 3. Philip Green with Hopeful Redwing launched at Hythe and 4. John Sampson with Chestnut Rocket launched at Herne Bay.

High winds meant the operation of drones to monitor the entries was compromised but a boat was hired for two days to scour the seas for any models still floating. Those recovered could be kept by their launchers as souvenirs.

Read more: All the latest news from Sheppey

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