MadSat Raft Team 

A potted history of Rafting, Earlybird & MadSat 

Hereford is a place where one drink too many can be good for your health. That drink and the resulting little bet between The Tram at Eardisley and The Crown and Anchor at Lugwardine in 1978 has evolved into the world's longest river raft race. Each year, crews of between 4 and 10 people from all over Britain (and some from abroad) compete for 3 days over the 70-mile River Wye course in what must be one of the toughest endurance events in the country. To prepare for such an event takes months of work beforehand, both in training sessions and making sure that the equipment is up to specification. It is this pre-work that starts to bind the team together, such that on the race weekend it is not uncommon to find the MD frying the bangers at the camp-site whilst the typists paddle the raft. This is better than any contrived corporate scout camp because the objective is tangible and the benefit is not only vested in the individual but in the charity disbursements that follow in the rafters wake.From race proceeds the funds go into the Plynlimon Trust with each team able to nominate their local charity. Equipment, never money, is donated to children's homes, hospitals and schools around the country. Rafting itself (as well as Raft Designs) has evolved over the years. Nowadays there are many races held around the country, on rivers, canals and even the sea. Broadly speaking, there are two categories: Fun rafts are what the layman would think of if you said “raft race” – i.e. planks tied onto heavy barrels with very little streamlining and crews in fancy dress. Super Rafts are the evolution of these, still built within certain guidelines but designed to be as light and streamlined as possible. It is these that take part in the longer and / or quicker races, crewed by dedicated and committed ind ividuals who work and play hard in order to finish as quickly as possible, raise as much for charity as they can and most importantly, enjoy it.


The first raft team based at Madley Satellite Station was named Earlybird after one of the first Geostationary satellites. This team ran between around 1980 and 1984 and was therefore involved during the key stages of raft designs evolving from the typical “Fun rafts” design through to the initial concepts of a “Super Raft”.

Earlybird 1 


MadSat Raft Team (as in Madley Satellite Station, or perhaps more aptly, you've got to be Mad, Sat on a raft!) were formed in 1989 from the remnants of Earlybird. Indeed it was 2 of the Earlybird crew, Bob Lawrence and Cal Edwards, who got us going. We have since competed in not only the 100-mile raft race (pre-cursor to what is now the 75-mile race) but also the 40-mile race, British championships and the many shorter “Sprint” races which take place throughout the rafting season.

The races really are something to behold, with supporters and back-up teams cheering and shouting from every riverbank and bridge. As such the races have received media coverage in newspapers and on TV, such as Trans-World Sport and by Sky TV. MadSat have also appeared on regional TV news broadcasts.

Our best finishing position in the annual CHAR Race (was 100-miles, now 70-miles) has been 2nd in 2014 with our lowest 23rd in 1989. Though we aim to finish as high as possible in the rankings, we also work hard with raising sponsorship for the various charities supported. Each year we aim to raise at least £1000 through crewmembers individual sponsorship.

Over the years we've had a few adventures and mishaps. We have become lodged on islands in the river and under branches, gone through Symmonds Yat rapids sideways, smashed the raft to pieces in the 1989 British championships, and rescued numerous lambs and cows during river training sessions. Our greatest “exploit” was bending the raft round the Old Bridge in Hereford during one of our first training sessions. Our rescue involved the use of Hereford Fire Brigade's Turntable Ladder to hoist the crew up the side of the Old Bridge where we were greeted by crowds of curious spectators and media, which resulted in our story appearing on Central News, the Hereford Times and even The Sun! However, since then we've gained experience and now know quite a bit more about the sport and raft discipline. That's not to say that small accidents don't happen – such is the nature of rafting. A 40ft vessel with limited manoeuvrability is always going to be a little hard to control on a fast flowing river with other rafts jockeying for position, but that all adds to the fun of the events and cements the need for training leading up to the races.

The competitive spirit on the water is replaced off it by a sense of camaraderie between teams. After all, we're all there for the same reason - to raise as much money for charities as possible, and to have fun whilst we're doing it. The teams help each other out constantly, whether it be with kit provision, advice or getting the rafts in and out of the water. The combination of working hard as an individual in the gym, working hard as a team on the water and knowing you're doing something for good causes gives rise to a sense of achievement as you finish a race which few people will experience.

MadSat - More than just a Raft Team
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