Campbell Cameron: The day of the Oban Raft Race dawned wild

Oban Bay Raft Race 1 © Campbell Cameron

Rain and wind buffeted the west coast town and the organisers wondered….can it go on?

Two other weekend events had already been cancelled due to the awful forecast – but the Oban and Lorn Lions are made of stern stuff. They held their nerve and just before 3pm,  the wind died down, the waves flattened and the sun even popped out when the rain went off.

Gathering in the lee of the North Pier and with the railway and South pier offering the bookend, the teams arrived and built up a mass of amazing sea craft ‘above’. Sea craft is a phrase used loosely.

oban bat raft race 2 © campbell cameron

At three o’clock they were ready. The music from Oban FM stopped and the Lions’ marshal, Brian Simmonds [portrait photo below], began the countdown. The air-horn sounded and they were off.

Oban Bay Raft Race 1 © Campbell Cameron

The early lead went to the RNLI followed by Scary Vore [top and above] – last years winners in Viking disguise to avoid a handicap.

Round the North Pier they went, followed at a variety of distances by over a dozen more excited crews and exciting craft.

A disastrous navigational error – or over excitement – had the RNLI head round the first marker boy – when the second one farther out was the destination that the Vikings were paddling for.

oban bay raft race 3 © campbell cameron

They gained a lead they were never to surrender and the RNLI headed off in hot pursuit – error discovered.

oban bay raft race 4 © campbell cameron

The Oban Distillery team were keen to keep their home in sight and were making slowest progress. It was more of a leisure cruise for them. You can’t hurry a good malt.

Only one ship sank – we will cover their blushes – but two of the crew bailed out after two others baled out and they paddled back to the finish – almost underwater and doing a fine imitation of a submarine.

Oban Lorne RFC were the best dressed, if not the fastest in their Rugby pitch raft, complete with goals and balls!

The Oban and Lorn Lions and the RNLI collected a great deal of money for their good causes.

Oban was busy with folk round the half mile bay – three deep in places and six in others. The cafes and shops were busy and the crowd had a great day on and off the water.

As the crews celebrated safe arrival and winning glory – the Clansman sailed in from the outer isles and completed the picture in Oban Bay – Gateway to the Isles.

Campbell Cameron

The photographs accompanying this article are by Campbell Cameron.

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