VIDEO: It may not be until July but now’s the time to start thinking about your raft for Ely Aquafest

The crowds were drenched by this raft race team.

The crowds were drenched by this raft race team. - Credit: Archant

NOW that spring is in the air, its time to start planning entries for the raft race at this year’s Aquafest river festival in Ely, say organisers.

The Outlaws raft in 2011.

The Outlaws raft in 2011. - Credit: Archant

Every year the river is filled with a spectacular array of raft designs - anything from a double decker bus to a pirate ship - and this summer’s raft race is set to be even bigger and better.

Aquafest Raft Race 2011.

Aquafest Raft Race 2011. - Credit: Archant

“We want to encourage as many companies, charities and groups as possible to join in this great fun event,” said organiser Viv Doji. “Everyone who takes part has a great time, building their creations and then taking them out on to the water to put them through their paces.”

Witchford Voices created a pirate ship.

Witchford Voices created a pirate ship. - Credit: Archant

This year’s Aquafest, organised by Rotary Club of Ely and Ely’s Herward Rotary Club, will be held on Sunday July 7, and the raft race is a highlight of the event, with crowds of people watching the fun and encouraging the teams from the banks.

Aquafest Raft Race.

Aquafest Raft Race. - Credit: Archant

There are prizes up for grabs, for both the most spectacular raft, and the fastest raft. Teams of four have to be aboard, and groups of three rafts are set off at five minute intervals, with each raft timed as it covers the course. All members of the crew have to be over 14 years-old and able to swim.

Ely Aquafest 2012

Ely Aquafest 2012 - Credit: Archant

Viv said: “The fastest rafts have often been made by the apprentices at various firms, many of the fastest rafts have been built with twin hulls, in the form of a catamaran. This allows a sharp entry, with the buoyancy chamber having a moulding to give the front a pointed appearance, allowing it it to cut through the water.”

The four man crew does not have to be the people who built the raft, but all rafts have to be home made, and man powered by using oars or pedal power.

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“Last year one raft sprayed water all over the audience, but sadly they had to be disqualified, because they used another form of power,” added Viv.

“We are delighted to accept entries from teams who want to build something spectacular, and put their ingenuity to the test. We have entrants taking part from all over the area, and some of the rafts are given amazing names.

“Organisations like Witchford Voices and the Outlaws have taken part, it is a great way for them to get out in the community; and we are very grateful to the businesses who also support the race, such as Thor Labs and Cambs Compressors.”

The race is free to enter, and organisers have a supply of buoyancy aids that can be borrowed. To get an entry form and a set of rules, contact Viv Doji on 0798 4323 695, or email

“We want to encourage lots of people to get involved in this fun event, said Viv, and I can help with ideas for rafts if anyone needs a helping hand.”