NEW BERN, N.C. — As autumn approaches, many people are enjoying the last few weeks of summer and taking to the water. Boats, kayaks and paddle boards are a popular option, but some people enjoy a more unconventional mode of water transportation — river rafts.
What You Need To Know
The Great Trent River Raft Race made a comeback this year after being cancelled due to COVID-19
The Lickety Split won the Classic Raft category
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It was built in the 1970s and raced in some of the first Great Trent River Raft races
It’s won almost every race in over 30 years of racing
The Lickety Split is a homemade river raft built out of airplane fuel tanks, old bikes, gears and a paddlewheel. Last month, it competed in The Great Trent River Raft Race.
However, this raft has a lot of history. It first competed back in the 1970s, when The Great Trent River Raft Race was just getting started. The race brought together hundreds of people to design, build and race their rafts.
Captain Jimmie Daniels was part of the original crew who built the Lickety Split back in the late 1970s. It took him and his crew a couple of years before they came up with the design, but it’s been winning ever since. In fact, the Lickety Split has only lost twice in its more than 30 years of racing. Daniels said they put a lot of strategy into building the raft to win.
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“We stood up on the bike and away we went,” Daniels said, remembering one of his races. “We passed the raft that was ahead of us. And the guy that was in the back turned around and said ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this.’ We rode around them, and we beat them out here probably by like 50 yards or so.”
Daniels and his crew trained hard for raft races all over eastern North Carolina.
“We won because we worked hard,” he said.
After taking a hiatus for several years, The Great Trent River Raft Race made a comeback in 2018. At that point, the Lickety Split changed crews, and Captain Jimmy Watts took over. He renovated the raft so it would be ready to race once again.
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“[We used] the original equipment, excluding the chains, from the ’70s when it was built originally,” Watts said. “So they did one heck of a job building it, and I’m very grateful I get to borrow it. So, thank you Jimmie.”
When these crews get on the water, you know they’re having a good time.
“People really like to see the rafts, and this one has got history with it,” Watts said. “… This is part of the excitement. People come out and give you so much support. It’s just fun.”
This year the raft raced in the Classic Rafts category at The Great Trent River Raft race on August 28. Watts and his crew brought home yet another win for the Lickety Split.
The crews who race this raft may retire or build new rafts, but the Lickety Split paddles on.