"The first Dubai Creek Raft Race was organised by me (Steve Camm), Robin White and David Aitecheson, members of the Dubai Motor Club (Dubai's first but little known Motor Sport Club). I must be honest but I do not remember why we organised the first raft race. I remember it was a lot of fun but made no money! The demise of the Dubai Motor club left a gap. I was often asked about another Raft Race. Later I joined the newly formed Dubai Creek Football Club and suggested the Club organise the Raft Race. We did so yearly with moderate success until 1974 when Dubai's first colour TV station was built. A local businessman donated a 14inch Sony Colour TV Set as a raffle prize. That year Dubai Creek Football Club made 90,000 Dirhams from the event! We moved the event to the new Mina Seyahi to attract more people." Steve Camm (Dubai Resident 1969-78)
Concept was simple. Dubai Community was invited to enter Teams of 2 or more people. Each Team built a Raft from 45 Gallon Oil Drums and Timber on the banks of Dubai Creek. Next day the Teams raced their Rafts on Dubai Creek. Race Rules initially prohibited welding but was permitted later. Eventually all rafts were welded often with oil drums shaped to improve performance.
Course was straightforward. Race start coincided with the tide change so no strong currents for the Teams to battle against. Start/Finish Line was a line drawn in the Creekside sand. At flag fall, Crews carried their rafts across the Start Line into the Creek, raced to a buoy, then up the Creek to round another buoy and back to the Start/Finish line where they had to carry their Rafts across the Finish Line. A Race Official checked which Team was first to cross the line drawn in the sand. His decision was final!
Dubai Creek Raft Race attracted entries from Dubai Police, Construction Companies, Sports Clubs and the Community. Some took the Race seriously practicing on the Creek for weeks before the Race. Others took a more relaxed approach! It was as much a social occasion as a sporting event with Dubai Expatriates of all Nationalities coming to watch. Each year the competition between the "top" Teams grew. Training for Dubai Raft Race became a full time occupation for Dubai Police and the Construction Company Teams. They had manpower available to support dedicated Teams. Honour and glory of winning meant a lot to these organisations and their people.
Raft Race grew in popularity and size. Dubai Creek Football Club had taken over running the event. Organising the event around Dubai's Tides became increasingly difficult. Any organisational delay meant the tide turned and Teams were battling strong currents. Exhausted Teams had to be rescued and towed ashore. Spectators grew in number. Parking and spectator facilities were needed but space was limited and road access non existent. In the early 1970s people did not have 4WDs to get across the sand.
Newly built Mina Seyahi was a natural home for Dubai's Raft Race. It provided a sheltered harbour with easy access and space for spectators and facilities. Dubai Raft Race moved to Mina Seyahi in 1979. It grew into a major entertainment event attracting Corporate Sponsorship and larger crowds from Dubai's increasing population. From humble beginnings on Dubai Creek, Dubai's Raft Race became advertised in Travel Brochures as a major Dubai Entertainment Event.