One of the most popular family fun days on the North Coast. Large crowds of spectators gather to watch as the ‘home-made’ rafts race from the West Strand beach to the finishing line in the harbour.
The first Portrush Raft Race took place in 1982. It was the result of a friendship that existed between two Johns. John Scott worked for Portrush Lifeboat while his friend John McNally co-owned the Harbour Bar.
In 1981 RNLI Lifeboat magazine featured a raft race successfully run by Oban’s station to raise funds. The two Johns read the article and agreed with one another that Portrush’s West Bay would make the ideal setting for a similar event locally. Regulars of the bar volunteered to offer their support, and so the first Raft Race committee was born.
Everyone agreed that fun was central to the event, and so prize categories were devised to incorporate raft design and costumes.
The first raft race, which took place the following May, attracted 39 entries. Rafts ranged from basic through to the Quinquireme of Nineveh which came complete with galley slaves, skeltons, and albatross and shark. The day was a roaring success – raising over £3,000 (£10,000 in today’s money) for the local lifeboat station.
The efforts of John Scott and John McNally are commemorated with the Two Johns Trophy, which is presented to the team which raise the most money at each Raft Race.