ONE OF Hampshire's biggest spectacles - the Great Waterside Raft Race - has been cancelled just 48 hours before it was due to take place.

Organisers today decided to scrap the contest after forecasters warned that the county is set to be battered by heavy rain and strong winds over the weekend.

The raft race was due to take place between Hythe Marina Pier and Hythe Pier on Sunday but has been cancelled on safety grounds.

Organisers were worried about the possibility of tents and marquees being blown over and rafts coming to grief in the stormy conditions.

Race spokesman Terry Ashmore said: "We are very disappointed but there are safety standards that we have to adhere to. Rafts are not all that safe in the first place."

It is thought to be the first time that the race has been cancelled in its 32-year-history.

Mr Ashmore said: "After all those months of lovely sunshine the weather has decided to be not very nice on Sunday. I'm sitting here with a long list of people I've got to call to let that know that the event is off.

"Next year we're planning to hold the event in July, which might be better."