How To Organise A Duck Race - Tips & Advice

Organising a duck race is a great way of raising funds at any event, and bringing a bit of fun competition to the proceedings. People and children especially love sponsoring a duck, and spectators can enjoy watching the race from the sidelines. The initial cost of purchasing plastic or rubber ducks and other supplies can be quickly recouped, with the potential for a good profit and the chance to re-use many of the same supplies during following events.

There are a number of things you need to consider when organising a duck race, including buying supplies and applying for neccessary licenses. This article covers everything you need to arrange when planning your duck race, and makes some suggestions for making the most of your event.

Practicalities & Location

The first thing you need to do is purchase your basic supplies:

  • Plastic or Rubber Ducks - you will of course need a set of ducks, quantity depending on the size of water you intend to use and the size of your event. You can run a race with as few as 10 ducks, and there are events that race thousands of ducks in wide inland rivers.
  • Waterproof Pen- you will need to mark the ducks with numbers or names in waterproof ink, so purchase a waterproof marker and this can be re-used for any new ducks you buy for later events.
  • Tickets - you may wish to have tickets that correspond to your duck numbers or names, although a smaller duck race could have sponsor names written on a notepad thus saving you the cost of tickets.
  • Prizes - you will of course need some prizes for the winners of your race! Depending on the size of your race you might want a collection of smaller prizes for runner-ups, or just one prize for the ultimate winner.

You will also need to consider what form of running water you are going to use to hold your race. For small events with no access to streams or water sources, you could construct (or buy) a gently sloped water trough with water recycled through a hose. A running stream or river, however, is the easiest solution, so there are advantages to considering this when choosing where to hold your event.

If you choose to use natural running water, you will need to organise a finish line to catch the ducks once the race is over. If the water source is wider than an arms reach or too deep for wading, you will also need nets to scoop up ducks at the end of the race. You may find it far more convenient to use a stream shallow enough for you to wade in with wellies, also enabling you to clear any possible obstructions like high rocks or flotsam - giving the ducks a clear path to the finish line.

Legal & Safety Responsibilities

A duck race is officially considered a form of lottery, so you will require a license from your Local Authority. You may find that for non-profit organisations the charge for licenses is lower than you might think, so enquire ahead of time and factor this into your cost. You will also need to leave plenty of time for acquiring your license, as Councils can have waiting lists and are unlikely to be able to provide paperwork immediately.

In terms of safety, you need to use common sense to judge what measures might be required. If you are using any kind of natural running water, it is wise to have volunteers to marshall the race course and ensure spectators do not get too close to the water. Small children can get into difficulties in the shallowest of water, so having a barrier might be a good idea if river-banks are slippery or at all hazardous. Your Local Authority may have specific safety requirements which could also differ depending on the size of your event, so checking with them beforehand is a good idea. You may be required to have trained medical officers on hand, who can be briefed on the risks surrounding the duck race.

You will also likely need Public Liability Insurance due to the presence of running water, although taking safety measures will decrease the amount you need to pay.

Although this sounds like a lot of work to organise a duck race, for a regular-sized event you will really only need to take what are considered 'sensible' precautions. Check what your obligations are, and do your best to make the event as safe and fun as possible for all involved.

Creating an Exciting & Popular Race

Once you have gone to the effort to organise your duck race and buy supplies, it's worth making that extra little bit of extra to make the event fun and profitable. While an active and friendly audience can make any duck race fun, for many event visitors you may find it better to go the extra mile to make the race more fun and involving.

There are a few ways you could make your duck race more of an attention-grabber:

  • Whereas numbering the ducks is a more traditional method, giving them racing names can be a lot more interesting. Regular names and racing nick-names can introduce an extra element of fun. If you are fundraising for a school or other group, consider running competitions for pupils of group-members to name the ducks before the event. Writing small descriptions of each duck's skills can give visitors something to laugh about too.
  • Name your race something such as The Quackers Challenge Cup or something related and hopefully amusing!
  • If you're feeling ambitious you could hold an interview with a spoof 'Duck Coach' before the race starts, giving spectators as well as competitors a reason to watch and join in.
  • If you are holding quite a large event, a commentary during the race could also add to the excitement.

Remember that for smaller events you can run several races during the day, advertising them regularly so visitors know when to buy tickets and gather for the race. You could decide to assign points to each finishing position and also give out a prize to the overall winner of the races from the day - this will encourage visitors to race more than once.

Whether you are organising a duck race with hundreds of ducks in a river, or a ten-duck race in a stream, you can make quite a profit with minimal effort. For small to medium events a ticket price of around one or two pounds is a good place to start, and you can adjust prices according to the popularity of your event and the prizes you wish to offer. If you plan well, you may find that visitors come to your events specifically to participate in the Duck Races!