The official site of the
Antibes Raft Race Association
(A non-profit making Association registered at Grasse under the Law of 1st July, 1901 - No: W061002809)

8 Avenue Mirabeau,
06600 Antibes,
France.

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History

 

THE ANTIBES RAFT RACE
(Motto "Who cares who wins")
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THE HISTORY - by Russell Lunt

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In a note to the 1977 edition of "The Boatswain's Manual" (c) 1977 Brown, Son & Ferguson Ltd., Glasgow, which he revised, Captain A.G.W. Miller wrote: "The changes in ships and seamanship continue and some men will complete their careers at sea in ships where very little of the old style seamanship is required. `M' Notices and British Standards leave little scope for the personal touch but I hope that there is still an interest in the job which goes beyond mere regulations."
 

He did not have long to wait to see his hope fulfilled! Just 2 4 years later the first Antibes Raft Race, organised by Julian Mills, was created to emulate the Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race, but with a minimum of rules and administration. The first memorable race took place without the "committee" having the foresight to obtain permission from Port Vauban. The Port Captain, Mr Plym, took it in his stride and later attended the evening bash with a view to lodging a complaint, but finished up presenting the prizes. MY 'CARAMBA' won the first race - their own 'Caramba Cup' which they had donated and which sat around various bars in Antibes for some years until the committee remembered it. The owner of "CARAMBA" later purchased a high-quality replacement cup which became the coveted top award for the winning raft. The style of the race had been set. During the 80's the finish line was at Harry's Bar in rue Aubernon, which stopped the traffic for some hours. Everyone, Antibes Police included, attended and joined in the fun. The race was held every two years or so until the original committee ran out of steam.

 

 

Following a gap of a few years, the race was resurrected by Gary Morton (pictured right) and a new organising committee roped in with Jamie & Christine Beirne and Sally Finbow. Gary attended to the proper creation and registration of the Antibes Raft Race Association as a non-profit-making Association at the local Sub-Prefecture in Grasse under the provisions of the Law of 1901. The course and the few rules were continually changed (often at the last moment), and most of the more recent races held in 1994 and 1996 proved so popular that the 1998 race was planned to be held a little later - in May - so as to give crews returning from the Caribbean the chance to compete (and give all the raft crews warmer water when they fell in the Port). In true Raft Race tradition, things fell apart at the last moment, and the actual race was not held - although the evening bash - The Hollywood Party - was a great success.


Many rafts have distinguished themselves over the years. Julian Mills in full P.L.O. Freedom Fighter uniform driving "ERNA"; Jack Smith on the sleek and fast "HIBA"; Steve Baxter on "LADY ASHLEY" with her 9" spaghetti guns; Pierre Rayon and the I.Y.C.As "GAROU" which carried a live chicken to achieve equivalence to the rule 6 in 1990 that each team include 1 woman; the 1994 raft from "SIRAN" (disqualified winner), who had cheated by having an engine hidden within the raft (not discovered during scrutiny) and started their prize acceptance speech "On behalf of our sponsor - Yamaha ..."
 


Each raft was built by the crews of some of the largest yachts in the world. The standard of construction and ingenuity of the crews employed is to be marvelled at and demonstrates that "the old style of seamanship" is well understood and that jury rigging has reached almost an art form. The race took place "around lunchtime" and was followed by an evening gala disco featuring 'The Yachtbreakers' (Antibes own popular band) held in the hall under the helipad at the International Yacht Club d'Antibes in Antibes Port. There were raffle draws (with raffle prizes cajoled from local businesses) and the prize-giving for the different categories of winners (best raft, best cheat, best dressed crew, first raft home etc). 

 


 

The judges (an esteemed bunch of ladies and gentlemen which has included such notables as Joe Russell, Chris Jones, Nick Sturge, Mike Meade, Nick Myers, Peter Insull, David Skellon, Sue Filer, David Dyer, Jane Hardy, Barry Piggin, Caroline Volmerange, Geoff Marsh, Kenny Minns, John Morris and other local yachtsmen who work for a free hat) let it be known early in the proceedings that cash bribes can influence the final decision. All proceeds from the event were donated to local charities and the association S.C.A.M.T. - a non-governmental humanitarian aid association which sent medical equipment and supplies to Bosnia. The Antibes Raft Race was the traditional start to the Summer Season, as well as raising useful money for charity. In 1996 - an amazing FF 90,000 was raised. It was a great day out to take part, or just watch, and certainly demonstrated "an interest in the job which goes beyond mere regulations".

 

  Visit our Snap Book - Click here to see photo's of Races Past.
 

The 2002 Antibes Raft Race took place on Saturday 4th May. It tied in nicely with the Refit 2002 Show which ended on that day. Refit 2002 Show organiser Peter Bryant  kindly made his Bar Marquee available to the Antibes Raft Race Association for their evening Fancy Dress Party, but due to the great numbers of Party-Goers expected the venue for the Evening Party was changed (at last minute in true Raft Race Tradition) to Rio's Banana Cafe on the quayside at Port Camille Rayon, Golfe-Juan. Showing exceptional understanding, and although being miffed at loosing this prestigious event which was looking to be a Grand Finale to the Refit 2002 Show, Peter Bryant  offered the Raft Race Association a Desk at the Refit Show so that the last minute change of venue can be best publicised. The stand proved a real boost the the Raft Race Committee who held impromptu briefings for the Marshals, RaftMasters (and RaftMistresses) and Safety Crews at the desk which was next to the Bar !  Long standing Raft-Race-Boss Gary Morton donned his President's hat, and led an enthusiastic committee who made the arrangements to ensure that the day will take its proper place in the distinguished history of this event. With a memorable display of theatre and Raftsmanship - the crew of "CALIXE" took the Caramba Cup for the Winning Raft and the Peter Filer Memorial Cup for the Most Entertaining Behaviour with their raft "FLINTSTONES" at the 2002 Antibes Raft Race. 
 

Over a thousand RaftRace Affectionados crowded the International Yacht Club d'Antibes and Port Vauban to witness the brave RaftRacers on a final total of 22 Rafts as they took to the water (literally in most cases). Early morning rain gave way to bright sunshine for the RaftRace, which started some 20 minutes late due to late arrival of some of the Rafts. Mr. Pierre Rayon from I.Y.C.A. officiated at the start. There was a fresh crosswind which gave an added interest to the proceedings. Jean Allier's Raft 'OL' MAN RIVER' (pictured right arrived just as the Winning Raft was finishing, but undeterred they joined in the mid-course water fight and managed to sink a number of others. They waltzed home with the Chris Allix Cup for Total Incompetence in Rafting. Other winners included D.S. Maritime's "JUNGLE WARRIORS" led by RaftMistress Sammy Benn who was an obvious choice for the Angel of Ecstasy presented by Ocean Master Charters for "Miss Raft Race 2002". The Judges cleverly avoided having to single out any one lady - and awarded this trophy to the all girl crew ! 

 
"AMADEUS" won the Peter Bryant Cup for the Raft most in need of Refit with their late entry Raft, and the coverted David Skellon Award for the Biggest Cheat was scooped by Alain Galet from Biot with his Raft "HAWAIIAN BOOZIE ROKKET No. 1" (seen left).  Matt Callaway from S.Y. "ALTAIR" took the Feadship Trophy for Best Raft with his entry "FIFE CASTAWAYS", and Paul Hussein on "PREZENS - THE BOOGY RAFT" took the Pinmar Cup for the Best Painted Raft. Click here to see the full list of the 2002 winners. Judges for the day were Joe Russell, Rupert Nelson, Colin Squire, Peter Allan, Sheena Insull, David Skellon, Chris Allix, Richard Morris, Steve Emerson, Olivia Rayon, Norma Trease and Russell Lunt who was also MC.Trophies were presented at the Evening PIRATE PARTY held at Rio's Banana Cafe BAR-CLUB in Port Camille Rayon, Golfe Juan. The party was an outstanding success with hundreds of Pirates and RaftRacers dancing the night through. Best Fancy Dress prizes went to Heather Skipper who managed to dress up as a Pirate Treasure Chest, and Chris Allix as Captain Hook. Click here to see all the pics of the 2002 RaftRace and the party.

Details and the report of our 2012 Raft Race - held on Saturday 21st April - are on our home page.

Thanks to Brown, Son & Ferguson, Limited of Glasgow for permission to quote from "The Boatswain's Manual". The latest edition is available from all nautical bookshops or direct from them.


This article 'THE ANTIBES RAFT RACE (Motto "Who cares who wins")' was first published in the PYA News - the annual colour magazine published by the Professional Yachtsmen's Association (http://www.pya.org). It is being continually updated by the author. The author, Russell Lunt, is a Council Member (and previous Hon. Secretary) of the Professional Yachtsmen's Association, and for 21 years was managing director of Yachtbrokers International in Antibes . He served his time rafting down the Var in old liferafts in the 80's and holds a Certificate of Competence (RaftMaster) Class 1. His company's entry for the 1990 Raft Races (raft called 'The Lunt Punt of the Month,) won an award (the wooden toilet seat pictured) for 'Total Incompetence in Rafting'. In an excellent display of SuperRaftsmanship - they managed to be awarded  the same award in 2002 - now called the Chris Allix Cup - for their entry 'Ol' Man River'.  Russell is secretary of the Antibes Raft Race Association.

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