It’s that time of the year again, the annual Leamington raft race, organised by the Rotary Club of RLS. My team and I had so much fun last year that we decided to go for it again, after making a few upgrades to last years set up.
Van-essa, the van roof come boat has been sitting in my garden since last year but all she really needed was a good clean and a little fibreglass to repair some of the larger holes we picked up at the last race. We prefer to think of Van-essa as a boat that sinks constantly…but predictably. The main issue we were having last year was that the boat did not want to go in a straight line. Primarily I think this was due to the ribs running horizontally along the roof, acting like chinings but in the wrong direction. The boat isn’t much longer than it is wide so this seemed to give it a tendency to veer off course at every given opportunity. To fix this I attached 2 pieces of hardboard (not ideal but cheap) to the bottom of the hull to flatten off the underside, then added some 2×4’s to both stiffen the hull slightly and force the water to flow in the correct direction. This was all screwed up through the hull and in to the inner frame, small screw holes would leak slightly but it was a nice quick way to attached the sheet besides, going quicker would mean less time in the water which would mean less water would make it in to the boat?
This solution clearly worked pretty well, 17mins shaved off of our time for last year an a very respectable 3rd place. The boat seemed a lot easier to steer but perhaps that was just me being optimistic, the sped up footage below makes us look like we are playing a game of Pong to get along the river!
The smaller amount of work on the boat meant that I could focus more time on the trailer! Last years design worked fine but was pretty dangerous and a lot of hard work. I wanted to address both of these issues and fortunately a quick call to Action 21 in Leamington soon saw me with a few steel bike frames to play with.
I am calling this a ‘bicycle pick-up truck’. It has full suspension and 2 front V brakes (plenty of stopping power for the speeds we were achieving). Both bikes are welded together and extended (3 and a bit lengths of chain required per side!), with the steering linked with some rudimentary Ackerman set up. A bed made from 2×4’s and OSB was bolted to the back to give me something to rest the raft on. Not only does this solution allow for 2x the power of my previous design, it is also much more stable and comfortable. We certainly got a lot of great looks cycling it down the parade to the race. Both bikes are set up with a single gear ratio and despite having a lot of chain droop we didn’t drop a chain once!
This year we managed to get some video of the race/eventful journey to it! So here is is in full, my first proper attempt at video editing, thanks to Matt for getting the shots on the way down. If you were a big fan of Van-essa the boat I suggest not watching the final 30 seconds, where she meets her end, sorry all I just can’t keep it in the back garden for another year!
Thanks again to the great team who crewed with me and helped prepare the boat for race, we will be back next year with a much faster design to hopefully take home gold.