CREWS are preparing to battle it out in one of Hampshire’s biggest spectacles – the Great Waterside Raft Race.

The eagerly-awaited event takes place today, with a wacky collection of homemade rafts tackling a square-shaped course between Hythe Marina Village and the pier.

Hundreds of spectators are expected to line the foreshore to watch the action and see who gets a soaking.

Launched more than three decades ago the fun-filled event is organised by the Hythe and Calshot branch of the RNLI and last year raised almost £8,000 for the life-saving charity.

An RNLI spokesman said: “It’s one of the few raft races that are held on the sea, which adds an element of excitement not found in river races.

“The course is set out between Hythe Marina and Hythe Pier and is always held between the two high tides unique to the Solent area.

“Apart from the races there are trophies for the ‘best presented’ and ‘most ingenious’ rafts, plus one for the team judged to have made the best overall effort.”

The fun-filled contest starts at 11am with a decorated rafts race followed by Formula 1 event over a longer course reserved for faster craft.

Crews taking part in the hotly contested pub race are determined to take the trophy away from Ebernezer’s, who have won it every year so far.

The spokesman added: “The event aims to be a fun day out for spectators as well as participants.”

Last year more than 100 people on eleven rafts tried to paddle their way to victory.

Marchwood-based 17 Port and Maritime Regiment took the prize for the best decorated raft.

A raft named after Theresa May sank, resulting in four sailors from local Conservative clubs having to be rescued.

One of the barrels in the Maggie May sprang a leak, forcing the captain to paddle to shore before it went under.