Boaters get ready for 10th annual George Raft race

Published on Fri, Jul 30, 2010 by Jeremy Schwartz

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For the last nine years, amateur raft builders of all ages have cobbled together anything that floats in order to compete in the prestigious George Raft race. Anyone interested can become a part of this famed tradition next weekend.

The 10th annual George Raft Race will take place Saturday, August 7 as part of Blaine’s Drayton Harbor Days. The race will start at 1 p.m. with registration starting at 12:30 p.m.

Anyone with an inkling toward the nautical can build their own raft from recycled materials and race from the Blaine Marina’s boat launch to the Blaine Boating Center Gate 2, said Bob Knapp, the George Raft race’s founder.

Using only recycled materials is one of the few rules to the race, Knapp said. Rafters attempting to use surfboards or anything else specifically built for travel on water have been disqualified in the past, Knapp explained.

“[Racers can use] what ever floats, really. Everyone gets pretty ingenious,” he said.

The use of paddles is allowed, and wearing personal floatation devices is encouraged. The rafts can be built to hold a total of four people and one dog, Knapp said.

Knapp said there’s no real secret to building a successful raft. Everything from cardboard tubes to empty milk jugs tied together have been used in previous races, he pointed out.

“It’s always hit or miss whether they’re actually going to float or not,” Knapp said.

The idea for a raft race originated in Knapp’s home country of England. Knapp said he decided to bring the idea of small, inter-pub raft races near London to Blaine Marina after talking with Drayton Harbor Days organizer Richard Sturgill.

The George Raft race takes its name from a Cockney expression referring to something fun that caused people to laugh, Knapp explained. Since the race often inspires laughter, Knapp said he thought the George Raft race would be a perfect fit.

“I didn’t think anyone would get it, so it didn’t really matter,” Knapp joked.

Joking aside, Knapp said he thought using an obscure English expression would add to the fun of the raft race. He explained the name has nothing to do with the American actor named George Raft.

For more information on the race and where to borrow building supplies and a personal floatation device, call Bob Knapp at: 360/332-3111.