Runners help raise sackloads of cash at the annual Ely Potato Race

Ely potato race_0810_by Dave Sawston

Ely potato race_0810_by Dave Sawston - Credit: Dave Sawston

Fourteen teams battled it out in Ely for the annual potato race over the quarter-a-mile course laden with a 20kg bag of spuds, all of which had been grown by farmers in the Fens surrounding the city.

The two-man team from the Cambridge Ambulance Service, were crowned worthy champions, winning their heat before, in the final, powering away from runners-up the Atrium Gym in the dash to the line. The Sylhet Restaurant Ely came third.

The winning team was racing with potatoes from farmers D Palmer and Sons.

Eleven other teams entered the race with action the most fast and furious seen in the five years of the event.

Also hotly-contested was the Pretoria Energy Fillies and Mares 10kg ladies’ race. J Gilbert and Sons provided the potatoes, with the winning team coming from Dawn Lamb Fitness.

A fiercely-contested children’s race between St Mary’s, St John’s and The Lantern primary schools saw St Mary’s school lift the Corkers Crisps trophy. The three schools will share the £500 prize for their endeavours.

Austen Dack, of organisers Isle of Ely Produce, said: “It was a fantastic set of races. A special mention to Widow Twankey from KD Theatre Company. She was in the main race promoting Aladdin, Ely’s professional pantomime this year.”

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Donations on the day helped to raise more than £2,500 for local schools and charities from the event.

The event is put on by Isle of Ely Produce to celebrate the region’s potato growers and the local harvest festival held in Ely Cathedral. More than 2,000 people turned out to watch the action.

Owned and managed by the Boutwood family, Isle of Ely Produce was established in 1994.

Director Oliver Boutwood said: “It was lovely to see so many people coming out to support the teams today. Isle of Ely Produce are happy to play such an important part in the community and will continue to invest in these types of events in the future.

“The event underlines our pledge to support the journey of the potato from the field to the fryer.”

Mr Boutwood of the money raised, “some will go to the Ely Hereward Rotarians, who did a marvellous job stewarding the event along the High Street”.

The winning duo from this year’s feature race received £100 cash prize and a trophy. This was made even more special due to the fact one of the Cambridge Ambulance runners had actually been on the night shift and had had only one hour of sleep.

All competitors kept their potatoes as part of their £10 entry fee.