Combining elements of the Varsity boat race, a Viking invasion, and Wacky Races, The Great Kenmore To Aberfeldy Raft Race was a massive event in Highland Perthshire for 17 years from 1976, taking place in mid June. This short video gives some flavour of a much loved and greatly missed highlight of Perthshire's cultural calendar.
Originally conceived as a challenge between the Ailean Chraggan and Coshieville hotels, other local teams quickly muscled in on the action and a major event was born, ultimately involving over 150 rafts at its peak. So successful was the race that it effectively spawned an entirely new sport with a circuit of races across Scotland for the more serious crews, of whom there were many.
From the outset, some teams approached rafting with Olympian levels of discipline, technique, boat design and training while some, particularly local, crews took a much more “relaxed” approach. The Raft Race sadly became a victim of its own success with the local area struggling to accommodate the crowds of around 20000 that descended on Aberfeldy and its environs for the event, and the increasing levels of public disorder that accompanied them.
The first 10 minutes or so of this video give a great introduction to the genesis of the race and some telling insight on the dark arts of rafting from Willie Matheson, legendary captain of Aberfeldy raft team Grease, and his son Paul.
Scottish Raft Racing’s YouTube page has many more clips of Aberfeldy To Kenmore raft races over the years and is well worth exploring.
Willie Matheson, skipper of Aberfeldy's Grease, one of the finest teams on the nascent rafting circuit, with their haul of trophies from the 1984 season.