30 Aug 13

Energy employees race ahead at Soapbox Derby

The annual races between gravity-powered carts known as Soapboxes, took place on Bank Holiday Monday [26 August], and were held in aid of the Ashford Pilgrim’s Hospice and the Aldington Village Hall.

Teams had to raise money for the charities to enter the races, with one team from the power station raising £1000, and EDF Energy also sponsoring a race. The total raised from this year’s event was around £12,000.

Chris Kemp, maintenance technician at Dungeness B power station, won the six-man solo race with “Widow Maker”, and his team also won the prize for raising the most sponsorship.

Chris, who lives in Ashford, said: “I’m really proud of the amount of sponsorship we managed to receive and I’d like to say a big thank you to our contract partners CVS and Balfour Beatty for their generous donations. I’d also like to thank all my team members with a special thanks going to Bob Manser and Gerald Shirley who helped on building of all the Soapboxes. It was a great event and good to see so many people from the station supporting the local event. It’s a worthwhile cause and a great way to raise money for charity.”

Steve Finniss, from Ashford, swapped his day-to-day role as a technician for a racing driver for the day, beating nine other drivers for first prize in the solo speed race with his cart, ”Silver Dart”, and winning another trophy for second place in the six-man solo.

Two teams of apprentices also joined in the fun, winning three trophies between them. The EDF Energy apprentice scheme is four years and apprentices leave with an Advanced Modern Apprenticeship Certificate in Engineering and also an NVQ Level 3. Third years Jack Hughson, Phil Adey, Andrew Deer, Adam Jackson, Luke Jones and Conner Lee clubbed together to make “The Rat Rod” cart and won a trophy for second place in the team event. But, they were beaten by a group of fourth year apprentices as Liam Dear, Stuart Gallagher and Ben McDonald came first in both the team event and sprint race with their cart, “D.O.G. Mk 1”.

Liam, 23, from Canterbury, has recently secured a role at Dungeness B for when he finishes the scheme in September.

He said, “It was a brilliant day and I think all of our teams did really well considering it the first time any of us had even been to a soapbox race, let alone actually taken part in one! There was lots of competitiveness between the EDF Energy teams, but I was very pleased that we all took home a trophy!”

Jacqui Pope, Treasurer for the Aldington Soapbox committee, helped to organise the event.

She said: “It’s wonderful to have such fantastic support from the station. This event is only possible with the generous support from local companies. The carts they entered did really well and we’re grateful for their sponsorship also. To see the next generation of young apprentices get involved is brilliant – I can’t wait to see what they come back with next time!”

Lots of EDF Energy employees who live locally supported the teams on the day. June Ashton, who lives in Ashford, runs the Visitors’ Centre at Dungeness B which opened earlier this year and is open on weekdays to members of the public, free of charge.

June said: “It was a really friendly atmosphere with so many other employees there. There were lots of familiar faces and it was great that EDF Energy were able to get so heavily involved. I’m really proud of all the teams for the carts they’ve made, and to walk away with so many trophies is a brilliant achievement.”