Crowds swell to see return of town’s raft race

International Rescue: The Thunderbirds are go at the annual Boxing Day Raft Race on the River Derwent in Matlock.
International Rescue: The Thunderbirds are go at the annual Boxing Day Raft Race on the River Derwent in Matlock.

Matlock’s raft race made a big splash on its return this year – as record crowds turned out to see the Boxing Day event.

Last year’s race was cancelled for only the second time in its history after a large tree fell in the river but this year the town turned out in force to support the popular tradition.

Organisers said around 15,000 people lined the banks of the River Derwent to see a variety of weird and wonderful home made rafts and rubber dinghies set sail.

A team called The Beach Boys was crowned this year’s winner, picked by Matlock mayor Barry Hopkinson.

Hogwarts Express sailed away with second place with Thunderbirds coming in a close third.

Other colourful creations included a fairy-themed float, Hawaiian costumes, pirates and the ever crowd-pleasing Father Christmases.

The 49th raft race attracted 39 teams, with 199 competitors, and raised around £8,800 for organisations including the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and St John Ambulance.

The Derbyshire Association of Sub Aqua Clubs organises the event.

Richard Middleton, of the club, said: “It was a wonderful day and everything went really well for us.

“I think with it being cancelled last year it brought more interest from the public and woke a few people up to come out and support us.

“People come from across the country to take part and it is a big boost to the local businesses too.”

Mr Middleton said the club was hoping to pull out all the stops for next year’s 50th anniversary event – but was still appealing for more volunteers to come forward to help organise the race.

To find out more or to volunteers go to www.dasac.co.uk