FORMER lifeboatman Derek Williams will breathe a sigh of relief as he watches entrants in this year’s Blue Anchor to Minehead raft race.

After 30 years, he’s giving up the task and passing the baton to other members of the Minehead lifeboat crew to run.

Derek said he’ll be watching the August 17 race with mixed feelings. “In a way, I shall be sorry to give up something that has been so rewarding to run,” he said.

“But I really think the time has come for me to take a back seat and let a fresh pair of eyes see what can be done with the race.”

The event was already five years old when Derek, then an active member of Minehead lifeboat crew, began running it.

It was started as a way of raising funds to equip the crew with personal pagers as a more efficient way of calling them out.

Now, all 4,600 RNLI volunteer lifeboat men and women carry pagers but the raft race is still contributing to local funds – helping to offset the £100,000 annual operating cost of the Minehead station.

Derek added: “There’s always a huge amount of work to be done, starting right back in the winter.

“I get a huge amount of support from my wife, Alison, and in a way we look on the race as a family event.

“It’s also, from the competitors’ point of view, one of the more enjoyable ways of raising funds for the RNLI.”

Almost 20 entries have been received for the main race this year and others are starting to pile up for the shorter, fun race for novelty entries across the bay from Warren Point to the harbour.

The event will also feature street entertainment and an evening fireworks display on Minehead harbour which traditionally brings proceedings to a close.

Street entertainment and an evening fireworks display on Minehead harbour will also feature.

All profits from the event will go to RNLI funds.

Anyone wishing to enter can find out more by calling 01643-709392.