After all the fundraising and anticipation Race Day finally dawned warm and sunny. Friday 10th April was set to be the hottest day of the year so far – they were talking about temperatures in the low 20’s! Our Principal Jake and Chief Instructor Kath set off on a fast train to London to cheer on Boat No 150 from the banks of the Thames by The Ship Inn in Mortlake.
The race was due to start at Barnes Bridge at 5:30pm setting off 250 mini lifeboats off down the River Thames on the tide to see which one made it first to pass the famous University Stone the finish line of the traditional boat race.
The Ship pub was even getting into the full spirit having been renamed specially for the day “The Lifeboat”. There were a few hundred people gathered at the finish line waiting with anticipation for the presenter for the day Hannah White to give the all important countdown. Even 5 year old Alfie was waiting for the live stream on the iPad!!
The Thames RNLI lifeboats were ready! The buzz of excitement grew as the race start neared with many spectators providing their educated and not so educated guesses as to how long the race would take. Tree branches were sailing down the river on the tide and they looked like they were easily travelling at 2-3 knots – so anywhere between 17 and 26 mins seemed to be the consensus on the river bank.
And on the stroke of 5:30 the flotilla of 250 mini lifeboats were released from the starting platform launched into the water to start their race. To make sure the boats made it safely down the river they had all been filled with a special foam to maintain buoyancy but even so one little boat did get a little stuck on the start platform and had to be given a helping hand into the water.
And they were off jockeying for position, trying to take the racing line in a great big sea of orange and blue shepherded by the real local RNLI lifeboats. As the boats rounded the corner and came into view of the spectators the cheers grew louder as the spectators tried to encourage their mini lifeboats to go a little faster!! Of course we all knew that it was really a duck race but that didn’t stop people cheering! Shouts of “Come on boat no 150”, “Come on boat no 210” and many other numbers could just be heard over the commentary.
There seemed to be a split in the fleet with some if the boats making a bit of a dash for the bank and getting themselves tangled in the weeds but a sturdy few led the fleet towards the finish line with 2 clear leaders fighting it out for line honours! The crowd held their breaths to see which of these mighty vessels would emerge victorious! All too soon (around 25 mins!) the race was over and we had a winner. With anticipation the crowd surged forward waiting for the winner to be brought ashore by the E-Class desperate to find out the boat number and name to see if they had won….
With the winning boat landed it was quickly passed to our Host to let everyone know that the winner was……. Boat no 205 “The John Hicks” – a shame that the sponsors weren’t there to greet it but they have won the fabulous and once in a lifetime opportunity to name their very own D Class lifeboat later in the year! That has to be a money can’t buy prize! Since they were announced as the winner the boat’s sponsor has doubled their donation after their fantastic win!
Even though we didn’t win it was a fabulous event and even more astonishing is that the proceeds from the event (sponsoring 250 lifeboats at £250 each) has raised enough money to buy a D Class lifeboat to be added to the RNLI fleet. That’s at least £62,500 just from this duck race!
We consoled ourselves with the rest of the spectators with an excellent BBQ, a glass of fizz and some live entertainment. So for us it’s better luck next year………… If you missed the race you can catch up with the highlights on the RNLI youtube channel at http://youtu.be/e2lWRqzT2_4 if you watch close;y you may even spot us……. and we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our boat 🙂