The Ytan Raft Race 1986 – 1995

During it’s time, the Ythan Raft Race was the largest assembled Raft Race in Europe, often attracting well over 200 teams who competed for a range of coveted prizes and trophies.  The Annual event ran without a break for 22 years and the impeccable organisational arrangements were overseen by Bill Smith, an inspirational art teacher from Ellon Academy in Aberdeenshire.

The River Ythan flows through the town of Ellon as it wends its way to the North Sea via the Newburgh estuary. The course of the race ran approximately 5 miles from the bridge in the town centre of Ellon to the bridge at Logie Buchan.

During the 22 years the race was held, Lodge St. Olaf were represented 10 times, and became the crew to beat in the categories for the most creative raft design. It’s just as well they put their efforts into building a raft that could win prizes for it’s looks, as they were never in the running to win any awards for their speed. Always at the tail end of the race, their most memorable defeat was the year the finished in second last place, only narrowly beating the local girl guides!

During their 10 year reign as kings of the Ythan, the crew changed from year to year with dozens of St. Olaf men helping to build the profile of freemasonry in the community, and creating a fine example of how the fraternity can integrate and enhance community activities in a significant way.

The themes for the raft design were wide and varied, from their first outing in a Mississippi Paddle steamer then through various other sea bound themes including a Chinese Junk, a Peterhead fishing trawler and Noah’s Ark. Other successful themes included a representation of Slains Castle, with the crew turned out in vampire costumes etc. Thunderbird 4 created quite a stir with the crew members then in full thunderbird costume.

Be sure to check out the individual Raft Race pages, you will find them in the drop down “About Us” menu.
The raft race only continued for another couple of years after Lodge St. Olaf hung up it’s paddles, I’m sure the two events were entirely unconnected. The reality was that those crew members who had taken part over the period were finding the additional 10 years did make a considerable difference to the stamina levels, fitness aside, after winning our coveted trophy 10 years in a row, we felt it was a good time to quit, while we were still ahead so to speak, the only time we could ever quit the raft race whilst ahead!

It should also be mentioned that our coveted prize was in fact a trophy donated by the Lodge to be presented to the best decorated raft in memory of one of our former crew members Bill Stewart who was sadly taken from us at the young age of 36 years. The pride the lodge took in competing for that trophy never faltered, and the pleasure of seeing it hung back on it’s hook in the lodge rooms year after year was enjoyed by the whole lodge. The raft race as an event ceased in 1997 after which organiser Bill Smith donated the coveted Bill Stewart Trophy to the Lodge where it hangs on it’s hook to this very day. Check out our Raft Race Roll of Honour.

Date Theme Prize
1986 Mississippi Paddle Boat Most Attractive Raft
1987 Fishing Trawler Most Attractive Raft
1988 Chinese Junk Most Attractive Raft
1989 Noah's Ark Most Attractive Raft
1990 Slains Castle Most Attractive Raft
1991 Thunderbirds Most Creative Raft
1992 The Booze Brothers Most Attractive Raft
1993 The Cruden Bay City Glitter Band Most Creative Raft
1994 A Man Called Horace Most Creative Raft
1995 The Spirit of St. Olaf Most Creative Raft