Leamington Raft Race
Recently some friends and I decided to enter the Leamington Spa Rotary Club Raft Race. With a few weeks to go we were still struggling to source some kind of buoyancy we could easily get a hold of for free. Eventually this led to the realisation that the roof from a van would make a perfect boat, all we needed was a roof. A quick call later and we had secured one (nice work Robin and the guys at Truck Busters), and that Friday we went equipped with angle grinders and a large trailer.
After scouring the lot we settled on a lovely white LDV convoy. This had the advantage of the side door not interfering with the roof (one less hole to fill), a high roof line and, most importantly, it was fibreglass so wouldn’t be too heavy for us to move around. An hour or so later and we were done.
Some cutting and re-welding was done to remove as must rust/weight as possible. Shawn and I then cut a piece of 6mm ply to make a stern (where the rear doors went). This was sealed on with silicon sealant and screwed in to the metal frame around the back. Although this mostly held water out during testing we later added some ‘sticks like shi*t’ to fully seal the joint.
A floor was added to spread the load of the 9 occupants of the raft across the fibreglass, then decoration was all that we required to be ready for the race. This lead to the problem of how to move a 4m long and 1.8m wide ‘boat’ 2 miles down to the river. None of us owned a big enough car trailer and it was too big to go on to my roof rack.
Enter the Bike Trailer
In the UK there are plenty or laws about towing by car. However, I could find fairly little relating specifically to towing by bike (note: this does not guarantee this is legal). A giant trailer could double up as a launch for our boat and be towed, albiet slowly, behind my mountain bike. Fortunately I had some spare steel left over from our Ambulance Adventure so I managed to whip together a bike trailer fairly quickly.
This thing is huge. Brakes have been added but with such length on the cable (over 4m) I struggle to achieve any actuation with all the cable stretch and outer flex. As a result the brakes are set so they are permanently on very slightly. Due to the weight of this thing (I estimate around 90kg) the constant rubbing of the brakes just about keeps the trailer in control, believe me I tried without.
This was just a quick project to get the boat to and from the race and we had some great comments about it, despite being in the way a LOT on the road. Despite how quickly it came together it has survived around 12 road miles with the boat on the back, going up and downhill through Leamington town centre. The next iteration will probably have servo actuated brakes and I will get rid of the camber on the front wheel.
We had a lot of fun with the race and ended up coming 4th out of 15 rafts. We also managed to raise some money for Help for Heroes, and we are still collecting on justgiving if you are feeling generous. Hopefully a race video is still to come.