Mark Luckin, one of the organisers of the raft race reports on this year's event.
We had ten rafts enter this year's Raft Race. The categories, their winners and times are below: - Men: "OR's Men" (Olney Runners), 23mins 36secs - Women: "PHWOAR" (Olney Runners), 26mins 14 secs - Under 18: "Floating Titanic", 40mins 44secs - Most entertaining: "The Black Pig", 1hr 6mins 24secs
"The Black Pig" was an impressive pirate-inspired creation from the same team who last year brought us the Thunderbird-themed "Blunderbird 2" craft. This was the first time (in a while, at least) that the Olney Runners had entered, and both their rafts rowed well and fast. Other teams of note included "You're having a bath" (two baths lashed together, remarkably stable) and, last to finish but still just about above water, "Titanic". Prizes consisted of cups and certificates.
We had very approximately 400 people at the start to see the Duck Race (around 1000 sponsored rubber ducks floating down river) and Raft Race starts - a good turnout. The World Cup meant we had fewer people than usual at the end, but that's just how the cookie crumbles!
The Duck and Raft Races were a bit different this year due to something which has generated significant interest in and around Olney: a nesting swan pair with five eggs based on an island in the river near the start. We worked with the local Councils, the Police and the RSPB to draw up a plan to deal with this. As recommended by the RSPB, over the week before the race two of the organisers spent some time wading in that general part of the river to assess the character of the swans. This suggested that they were pretty calm - a good sign though, clearly, we couldn't rely on it for sure. On the day of the race, we erected temporary fencing in the river to help keep the Duck Race's rubber ducks and the Raft Race's participants separate from the swans. This worked well: the swans seemed to stay calm and both races went ahead without issue. We thank the Councils, the Police and the RSPB for their assistance and advice with this.
The Raft Race is organised by The Olney Group. The Duck Race is organised by the local Scout group.