The Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race – When Food Becomes Transport

A Yorkshire pudding is a staple ingredient in Northern English cuisine. A doughy crust made of four and eggs, it rises to become crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Served alongside a traditional roast dinner with beef, lamb or chicken, potatoes, vegetables its soft consistency soaks up all of the gravy and makes a delectable treat. This simple yet versatile dish is also used in desserts and served with sweet jams.

However, what would happen if a giant Yorkshire pudding was made waterproof with yacht varnish and then used as a boat? This idea originally became a way to build quick and inexpensive rescue boats in times of severe flooding and has now evolved into a yearly festival and event.

Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race: Stevie-B's world famous Yorkshire puds
Stevie-B’s world famous Yorkshire puds: Photo Stevie-B via photopin / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race: A Surreal Spectacle

The Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race was first presented in June of 1999 in a pond in Brawby. It was invented by a man named Simon Thackray, who had come up with the idea a few years earlier while drinking at his local pub. After he thought about how much fun it would be to sail down the river on a Yorkshire pudding, he had crafted a scaled down prototype for a Yorkshire pudding boat and gave it a test drive in the bath.

Making the full sized boats is an entirely different matter. Each boat requires approximately 50 eggs, four bags of flour and 25 pints of milk. The dough is beaten and baked, then lined with a thick layer of foam filler and covered in layers and layers of waterproof glossy yacht varnish.

Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race
Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race: Photo by Tony Bartholomew; Copyright © Simon Thackray at The Shed

This small floating model inspired the boat race. Truth be told, it isn’t really a race but rather an enactment of a “mythic legend.” Five junior oarsmen, dressed in brightly colored safety equipment, get into the super-sized puddings and paddle down the river. Their goal is to save “The Thing” from the grasps of a temple of doom. There really isn’t a lot of structure or sense to the event – it has a start but no finish. Some have compared it to the surreal Dadaist events of the 1930s.

The event has become wildly popular over the years and it has been featured on BBC 1, BBC 2, Sky News, BBC Radio 5 Live, Big Breakfast Channel Four, The ARD Germany and Armed Forces Radio as well as many other radio stations and newspapers.

The Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race was cancelled in 2015, but here’s hoping that the strange event makes a return in 2016. Will you make the journey to the small village in Yorkshire in order to take part in this surreal event?

About Kelly Dunning


A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word. She and her English boyfriend Lee run, packed full with travel guides, stories and inspiration for those who dream of travel. They have been location independent and travelling the world digital-nomad style for the last three years, with no address, no car and no fixed schedule.

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