The Leigh Volunteer Fire Brigade hopes to reclaim the top position at the next Leigh Raft Race on March 23, after its long-time rivals from Matakana won two years running.
Race organiser Errol Murray says this year a judge will be appointed that is not a fire brigade member because the stakes are so high and the rules have changed.
“It will not necessarily be about who crosses the finish line first, as points will be awarded for creativity, and timing considered after that,” Murray says.
He wants people to think beyond just standard 44 gallon barrels in their design and recalls a particularly impressive craft featuring a hydro foiling trampoline.
The rules forbid motors of any kind, as well as surfboards and windsurfing, but mechanical paddles are okay if they are human-powered.
The event has also been shifted to Matheson Bay because of the difficulty in timing the tide at Whangateau.
In previous races, eggs and buckets of rice have been used to distract the helmsmen, and this year participants are warned that kids may be armed with slingshots.
Anyone who wants to take part can get in contact with Murray on 021 078 7477, or just turn up with a valid vessel. Race starts at 1pm, $10 per raft.
For full race rules, see the Love Leigh Facebook page.