BABY SHARK: The baby shark raft, raced by Madi and Ella Fenwick, Colin Rampling, Emily Kjeldsen and Zahara Magee, won the best dressed family entry, although –as seen below when Ella and Colin fall in the water – their race was not without incident. Photos Troy Baker D7894-026/148

SIXTEEN rafts raced on the Whakatane River last weekend, in the annual Matata Blue Light Raft Race.

The Tikitere Memorial Trophy was awarded to Coastguard Whakatane after its raft, which resembled a waka ama watercraft, crossed the finish line in nine minutes and 50 seconds.

As well as putting it in first place it also beat the record time of 10.37, set by Whakatane Intermediate School in 2016.

Organiser Kevin Raynes says the annual challenge is dedicated to the memory of Lance Tikitere Fitzgerald (Tiki), a 13-year-old who drowned while swimming under the Landing Road Bridge in 2013. Because water is a big part of Eastern Bay summers, the raft race is about promoting safety in and around the beach, river and pools.

A whanau division was added to this year’s event, alongside the community, emergency and business categories. Kevin says the new category, which attracted the most rafts, had a best-dressed prize up for grabs.

The winner of the White Island Tours family pass was the Fenwick family, who dressed in a baby shark theme. “It was well deserved for the amount of time and effort they put into it.

I can’t believe how many designs you can make out of six barrels and two pallets.

The business house section was won by Bunnings Warehouse. Edgecumbe Blue Light placed first and second in the community section.

Kevin says $1000 was raised toward Christmas gifts for less fortunate families throughout the Eastern Bay, in partnership with The Warehouse and Salvation Army.

haylee.king@thebeacon.co.nz