Organisers reveal 'with deep regret’ that the 2024 Portrush Raft Race is cancelled

Known as the largest raft race in the UK and Ireland, this year's event had been billed as a special edition to mark the RNLI's 200-year anniversary
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The famous Portrush Raft Race, which raises vital funds for the RNLI, has been cancelled this summer.

The organisers of the annual charity event have officially confirmed the cancellation ‘with deep regret’ adding it was ‘due to circumstances out of our hands’.

The fundraising spectacle has become synonymous with the May Bank Holiday weekend attracting thousands of visitors who come to watch the home-made rafts race from the West Strand beach to the harbour, whilst raising money for Portrush Harbour RNLI Station.

Portrush Raft Race 2023. Photograph by Declan RoughanPortrush Raft Race 2023. Photograph by Declan Roughan
Portrush Raft Race 2023. Photograph by Declan Roughan

The event started in 1982 and has grown over the years to become the largest raft race in the UK and Ireland and one of the most popular family fun weekends on the north coast.

Last year marked its 40th anniversary and raised over £25,000 for the local station, helping the charity that saves lives at sea.

This year's raft race had also been billed as a special edition to mark the RNLI's 200-year anniversary.

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Portrush Raft Race 2023. Photograph by Declan RoughanPortrush Raft Race 2023. Photograph by Declan Roughan
Portrush Raft Race 2023. Photograph by Declan Roughan

Trevor Abernethy, former chair of the Raft Race committee, said: "It is with deep regret that we must announce that the Portrush Raft Race will not return in 2024.

“Due to circumstances out of our hands we unfortunately cannot run the event this year. Don’t worry the Portrush Raft Race will return in 2025.

“From all the team we want to thank our sponsors, donors and supporters as the Raft Race couldn’t have been a success without them.”

Brian Moore, who has compered the event for around 15 years, explained: “I have been officially notified that the event has been cancelled. However officials have stated that ‘they may try and bring it back next year’.

The crowds pictured at last year's Portrush Raft Race. Photograph by Declan RoughanThe crowds pictured at last year's Portrush Raft Race. Photograph by Declan Roughan
The crowds pictured at last year's Portrush Raft Race. Photograph by Declan Roughan

"I’m not a committee member and I gather most of the committee, including chairperson, have resigned so even if the situation was rescued there isn’t enough time to properly organise it now.

"I think this would have been the 41st year so it’s very sad - it’s been a very popular fixture for all those years and raised many, many thousands of pounds for the RNLI with the money ringfenced for use on its Portrush operation. Lots of people I know are horrified and one even said that it’s ironic that it survived Covid but has been defeated by whatever problem that seems to have come completely out of the blue. RIP Portrush Raft Race.”

This is the first year the event has been absent from the town's event calendar except in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid pandemic.

In response a spokesperson from the RNLI, added: “The RNLI North Coast Events Group is unable to run the Portrush Raft Race this year. The RNLI is grateful to the committee for their hard work and many years of support for this incredible event which has raised significant funds for the charity’s lifesaving work. The RNLI is exploring several options with the hope that it may be possible to continue the event for the charity’s 200th year.”

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