Richard Bayliss and the coracle world championships

It was typical of Richard, with his sense of fun closely coupled to his generosity and determination to help others, that he persuaded a collection of Shrewsbury companies to paddle unstable crafts across the River Severn back in 2007.

Deciding that this was a unique event, the Coracle World Championships, for that is what they are, were born with the intention of a fun day out of the office and nice fat cheque for Macmillan Cancer Support. To date this event has raised over £320,000 for Macmillan in Shropshire, with countless competitors paddling, capsizing and drifting to glory to uphold the ideals that Richard set in place.

Sadly Richard himself died of cancer in 2015, cruelly cut down by the disease he fought against, but leaving us to continue the fight, to continue to support Macmillan and give people affected by cancer the best chance and standard of care possible.

Thank you for your support: in memory of Richard we will be awarding the Richard Bayliss Cup, which will be presented to the team who raises the most sponsorship the event.

Over £200,000 has been raised by the Coracle World Championships

Richard Bayliss

The history of the coracle

The history of the coracle - a traditional wicker coracle and oar

What is a ‘Coracle’?

The coracle is a small, roundish shaped, lightweight boat of the sort traditionally used in Wales but also in parts of Western and South West England, Ireland (particularly the River Boyne), and Scotland (particularly the River Spey); the word is also used of similar boats found in India, Vietnam, Iraq and Tibet. The word "coracle" comes from the Welsh ‘cwrwgl’, cognate with Irish and Scottish Gaelic currach, and is recorded in English as early as the sixteenth century. Other historical English spellings include corougle, corracle, curricle and coracle.


Oval in shape and very similar to half a walnut shell, the structure is made of a framework of split and interwoven willow rods, tied with willow bark. The structure has a keel-less, flat bottom to evenly spread the weight of the boat and its load across the structure and to reduce the required depth of water – often to only a few inches, making it ideal for use on rivers.


Designed for use in the swiftly flowing streams the coracle has been in use in the British Isles for centuries, having been noted by Julius Caesar in his invasion of Britain in the mid first century BC, and used in his campaigns in Spain. Remains interpreted as a possible coracle were found in an Early Bronze Age grave at Barns Farm near Dalgety Bay, and others have been described, from Corbridge and from near North Ferriby.

Its use and unique technique

The coracle is an effective fishing vessel because, when powered by a skilled person, they hardly disturb the water or the fish, and they can be easily manoeuvred with one arm, while the other arm tends to the net (two coracles to a net). The coracle is propelled by means of a broad-bladed paddle, which traditionally varies in design between different rivers. It is used in a sculling action, the blade describing a figure-of-eight pattern in the water. The paddle is used towards the front of the coracle, pulling the boat forward, with the paddler facing in the direction of travel.

For many years until 1979, Shrewsbury coracle maker Fred Davies achieved some notability amongst football fans; he would sit in his coracle during Shrewsbury Town FC home matches at Gay Meadow, and retrieve stray balls from the River Severn. Although Davies died in 1994, his legend is still associated with the club.


Coracles are rarely seen in the modern world, and if you do see one, chances are it is hanging somewhere as a ‘garden feature’. One aspect of the coracle that has never changed over time is people's love and bewilderment for them. For those seeking the elusive coracle, one guaranteed place to see them is every summer on the River Severn in Shrewsbury at ‘The World Coracle Championships’. If you want the honour of having a go in one, then all you have to do is click the link below and enter a team!


Email us:

Macmillan Cancer Support Fundraising: Kate Thomas 07894 936358

Corporate sponsorship: Grant Williams 07736 152392

Event location: Pengwern Boat House, Shrewsbury SY3 7BD
Event date: Friday 11th September 2020 | Race starts: TBA