Up the creek without a paddle

With the cars safely tucked in for the night under parc ferme conditions, the F1 paddock made its way down to the end of the rowing basin for the once-traditional – and hopefully now traditional again – raft race.

The rules, such as they are, are rather more straightforward then most things in F1. The teams build their vessels on the shoreline of the basin. The old rule about using garage detritus has been foresworn in favour of a fixed kit of materials – in the style of Masterchef.

At 1900 the hooter sounded and the crews were given 30 minutes to construct their craft. A late technical directive threw carefully laid plans into confusion, banning single-hull designs, those being considered far too sensible. Fortunately, Paul ‘Paddles’ Monaghan, our chief engineer, car engineering thrives on pressure and lives for the last-minute bodge.

That bombshell aside, the only rule was that you were not allowed to sink your rivals (on purpose) and after that, anything goes. It’s silly, it’s savage and – being F1 – it’s also highly competitive.

Each team consisted of six (un)able seamen ­– but a further tweak to the rules for this year introduced a new format in which a seventh crew member was to be collected from the far bank, and returned safely to shore. Having failed to cover ourselves in glory last year, Red Bull Racing achieved remarkable consistency by failing once again.

In a manner more-or-less entirely unlike graceful swans, our crack crew of Jolly Jack Tars John, Chris, Adam, Hadyn, Olaf and Nathan paddled furiously on the surface but had very little going on beneath. But they did manage to collect Dana and more or less didn’t sink.

There was a finishing order but we’re not going into that as sport, truly, was the winner (but they’ll be dancing in the streets of Wantage this evening). Erok played some good tunes on the decks, the Montreal Fire Brigade ensured everyone got soaked, competing or otherwise, and a good time was had by all.

And now, comes the race we’re taking slightly more seriously…