Raft race cancelled after false start

FRESH attempts to re-stage Felixstowe's raft races, cancelled controversially last weekend because of rough seas, have been abandoned.Organisers had said the popular event would take place this Sunday if the weather was fine and waves calm, but have now decided to call it off.

FRESH attempts to re-stage Felixstowe's raft races, cancelled controversially last weekend because of rough seas, have been abandoned.

Organisers had said the popular event would take place this Sunday if the weather was fine and waves calm, but have now decided to call it off.

The resort's Lions Club sailed straight into trouble with the Coastguard after sending out a test boat to see if it was safe for the home-made rafts to race.

But sector manager Jo Arlow said it was only by the grace of God that no-one was killed as the waves flipped a raft onto Felixstowe beach, sending crew members into the water.


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"They are very, very lucky no-one was killed and I don't want to see that on my patch again," he fumed.

It is understood the Lions are now to meet with Coastguard and safety officials to discuss the future running of the event to ensure there are no similar incidents.

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Club president John Ramsay said it was with regret that it would not be possible to re-stage the event this summer.

"However, despite the cancellation, it is still anticipated that sufficient funds have been raised for a donation to be made to the Ipswich Children's Hospice, which the raft races were supporting this year," he said.

It is understood that the Lions have had a number of problems in trying to hold the races again this weekend – with not all entrants available at such short notice, and a lack of manpower to run the event.

The races were staged for many years in the 1970s and 1980s by the town's Round Table and were killed off because of the high cost of insurance. They were revived by the Lions five years ago and are a popular attraction.

The races are held on a triangular-shaped course on the sea between the pier and the Spa Pavilion and attract teams from businesses, groups and youth organisations, who build their craft for the race.

John Cresswell, of Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol and Rescue Service, which provides safety cover on the water at the event, said: "I recommended that the raft races be called off but it was the Lions' decision at the end of the day. No-one was in real danger – after all there were plenty of people swimming in the sea.

"I don't want to see the event lost as it is important to Felixstowe, but they need to appoint a marine safety officer and work more closely with the experts."

Organiser Barry Gillings said the racers had come from all over Suffolk for last weekend's event and were keen to get in the water.

He said: "We wanted to put one out to see what would happen. We had a boat out there to get them back in if they couldn't manage.

"The boys just wanted to get in. We thought it was too strong, but we wanted to check it was a non-starter. It was just a bit of a play really."

n What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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