The Monmouth Raft Race, now in its 52nd year, and founded by the Abergavenny Young Conservatives, was for very many years run by the Monmouth Conservative Association. Organisation of the race was ceded to the Rotary Club of Monmouth in 2003.
Originally it was intended to hold the first raft race on the River Usk. However they were advised that this was too dangerous for this type of event. The venue was altered to the River Monnow, with the start being at the Bell at Skenfrith and a finish at Monmouth. The Abergavenny Round Table decided to enter a raft, and in total there were 23 rafts. The Monnow was not the most suitable venue and there are no records of the winners and where or if they finished. However about £35 was raised and donated to the Freedom from Hunger Campaign
The 1966 race was moved to the River Wye with the start near Symonds Yat and finish at Monmouth Boathouse
Due to lack of start facilities and viewing points it was decided to look for a different course for 1967. The Whitebrook area was investigated for the finish. Hence the late Vic Cullimore’s field was used. His great enthusiasm and support over the subsequent years has been continued to this day, by his family. In 1968 over £400 was raised for Tenovus and sponsorship of the rafts started, the first being Whiteheads Iron and Steel of Newport with catering by the local pub The Crown.
Charities supported over the years include Multiple Sclerosis Society, RNLI, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and currently St David’s Hospice Care.
The raft race has only ever failed to take place twice. Once at the time of the foot and mouth epidemic in 2001 and once in 2008 when the river was in flood.
In its heyday the race apparently fielded over 200 rafts, but in the thirteen years of Rotary ‘ownership’ it has grown from 40 to over 100 rafts.
Rotary organises the event with marketing help from St David’s Hospice Care, and the entry fees and car parking charges pay organisations such as the Scouts, Guides, RNLI, Monmouth Festival Committee, Rowing and Canoe and Clubs, St John’s Ambulance, Ross Rotary Club and the Severn Area Rescue Association for helping, with any surplus being added to Rotary funds for its local charitable commitments. The last 14 Raft Race events have raised a total of £266,000; £32,000 of which was raised in 2016.
In 2016, 75% of the total raised was donated to St David’s Hospice Care and 25% to other charities supported by Monmouth Rotary Club.
St David’s Hospice Care are such a good charity to work with that they have been chosen again for the next raft race on Sunday 3rd September 2017.
The 2017 Raft Race will be sponsored by “Mandarin Stone, David Wilson Homes and Tiny Rebel brewery. Their contribution will cover the organisation costs for the event, enabling us to maximise the donations to St David’s and other charities supported by Rotary.