Big crowds turn out for Race the Waves ‘A Theatre of Automotion’

Big crowds turned out for this year’s Race the Waves on Bridlington seafront.   In one of my favourite events visitors were treated to one of the most unusual car and motorcycle events in the calendar.

Featuring predominantly 1920’s and 1930’s hot rodded cars it is a complete antidote to the traditional field based classic car show.  As the tide recedes the race against the waves begins as the team lay out a track on the drying sand along with a holding bay for the cars.  Then as the tide turns the organisers must clear the course and ensure that everyone and their vehicles makes it safely to the cliff side rendezvous.

I caught up with Paul Garbutt of Backfire Promotions who put the event together.   

Paul said:

The people who take part are not so much taking part in an event, but living a lifestyle. Everyone here is a racer (at least in their own head).  They may or may not be quick but here they can turn the clock back to a less complicated era and have a great time with their vehicle on the beach.   The participants are great fun and join in all aspects of the weekend including the cruises, exhibitions and press day.  They are fully consumed by what they are doing for the whole weekend.

Now in its third year Paul told me that he was originally asked to host a motorcycle show in Bridlington.  But he was concerned this seaside town tended to be a Scooter orientated destination and attracting the desired attendance was going to be a real challenge.  Also sitting in a field behind a classic car had less of an appeal too. He wanted to put on a show that truly involved the participants so he decided to put on the kind of show that he would want to attend.   So that’s what he did and in only 3 years it has become firmly established in the Vintage and Hot Rod car scene.   He was also anxious to point out the support he received from the local East Riding of Yorkshire Council and the Yorkshire Coast Bid, who not only enthusiastically promoted the event but also facilitated the use of various public spaces and the beach.

Friday is Press day and scrutineering and members of the public can wander round the cars and talk to the owners on the Church Green, in the Bridlington old town (where the recent Dads Army movie was filmed).   Many of the drivers have turned up in appropriate dress (mainly denim, T-shirts and overalls).  This is not an event where being too fancy pays off.   The atmosphere is relaxed and drivers and their teams are very friendly.  

The first day of the event proper is Saturday and from 8am cars and motorcycles of every description start to gather on a cliff top car park.  By 10.30 they are ready to head for the beach and by 11.00 the sea has receded sufficiently to head for the track.   

What happens next is difficult to describe to the uninitiated but it is a feast for the eyes and the ears.  First the motorcycles are waved away and they slowly gather traction, go too fast and the rear wheel will spin and you will make no progress.  Once away some will wave, others cling tightly to their steeds to maintain control.

Then the cars join in.  All manner of vehicles, many from the 20’s and 30’s but many decades are represented, the most recent being an MG Midget fitted with a Rover V8.   The sight of these cars, against the yellow sand and blue sky was a thing of beauty.   You could have been in California just as easily as Bridlington.  

The cars and bikes posed on the beach for photographs before making their way to a holding area.   The cars are then brought forward in small groups to run the straight 200yard track two at a time.   There is no timing, this is not a competition and performance is measured by the smile on the faces of those who take part.

A large crowd has gathered on the promenade to watch.   It is one of the best free shows you will see and I haven’t seen Bridlington so busy for a long time.  It seems the investment by the council has paid off.

After about 4 hours the tide starts to turn.  The last few runs are completed and the cars and bikes head back to the cliff top rendezvous point.   Everyone packs up and heads to their accommodation, a few will be working on their cars to fix anything that broke.   But they will all be back on Sunday morning to do it all again.

When it comes to the Hot Rod scene, I am a complete novice.  However, I was delighted by how they embraced me and shared their thoughts and their vehicles.   The cars and bikes are dramatic and they shine in the visual splendour of the British Seaside.   I’d like congratulate Paul and his team at Backfire Promotions for organising such a great event.  And if the local tourist board are reading this, then they should be entering this event for an award.

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