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Have you seen Arundel’s famous Duck Race during the Arundel Festival of the Arts?

Wait a minute… a Duck Race? Real or plastic?

Every year, in Arundel one of the highlights of the Arundel Festival Of The Arts involves 2,000 very competitive, bright yellow ducks – all racing to cross the line first. These are plastic ducks, launched from the Arundel bridge into the Arun River to bob in the flowing river tide until the winning three cross the finishing line – snagging their ‘owners’ a cash prize.

You can buy a duck for £1 each and if your duck crosses the line first you will bag £100. If you’re wondering how anyone can recognise their duck in a swirling mass of yellow – every duck is numbered, and the numbers are marked on tickets bought.

So, there can be no doubt who wins, even though all the happy yellow ducks look the same. Don’t worry if you don’t scoop first place. There are cash prizes for 2nd and 3rd place too.


Where does the money raised from the duck race go?

Each year a nominated charity organises the Arundel Festival of the Arts Duck Race. Since the event was first launched, more than £20,000 has been raised for local charities. 

In 2021, Arundel Museum organised the duck race. In previous years, the little ducks have been mighty successful in raising funds for The Sussex Snowdrop Trust – Care at Home for Children, Arundel Lido and Chestnut Tree House  Well done those little ducks – what a great result!

How difficult is this race for the little ducks taking part?

The River Arun is the second most powerful river in England after the Severn and when it runs out with the tide you certainly know about it! Travelling at up to 7 knots the little ducks bob along and get into a good spot for the flow to carry them across the line first. During the race, the ducks jostle and bump into each other. Once clear of the pack, the ‘strongest’ ducks clear the many obstacles like weed, rushes, flotsam, real ducks, sea gulls and swans – and then it’s a clear run to the finishing line!

Who can watch the Arundel Duck Race?

You are all invited! Pick your spot along the riverbanks or on Arundel bridge and watch as our valiant little ducks race to cross the finishing line first. If this sounds like a quirky English event – that’s because it is! And it’s a lot of fun too. See you next year?

Who rescues the remaining 1,997 ducks after the race?

No duck is left behind! When the winning three ducks have been scooped from the water, the Arun Divers Club, based in Littlehampton, collect the remaining 1,997 ducks from the river. In a speed boat, manned by six people, the team use nets to pick up all the ducks. In the water (whatever the temperature!) two or three divers brave the fast-flowing river water to make sure no ducks get lost in the reeds along the river’s edge. The Arun Divers club have worked on the Arundel Duck Race since it was launched 10 years ago, and they are skilled experts when it comes to scooping wayward ducks from the water. Thank you, Arun Divers Club, for making sure no duck is left behind!

Do the plastic ducks harm the environment?

In one word – no! That last thing the Arundel Festival organisers wants is for a lonely duck to end up in the sea. Working with experts like the Arun Divers Club, the Arundel Festival committee ensure that the Arundel Duck Race does not harm the environment.

Frank Regester, from the Arundel Festival Committee said, “This morning, we put three sacks of slightly damp plastic ducks back into the festival store. I can confirm that no ducks made it into the English Channel!”

All ducks are now ready to rest and retrain for next year’s race. Will you be there to support them?  

Written by Barb Hogan, Visit Arundel

Photography: Cover & Donations – Charlie Waring, Divers – Nigel Cull