The last time Donna Livingston watched her Workman Junior High students participate in the annual Cardboard Boat Regatta, they were mighty close to winning an award they didn’t particularly want to win.
It’s called the Titanic Award, and judging from that name, it honors pretty much what you think it does: the most spectacular sinking.
Her students’ boat was on its way to the finish line when it simply tore apart, dumping its inhabitants into the pool.
Hoping to avoid such a disaster for the 24th Cardboard Boat Regatta slated for April 27 at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Livingston and about a dozen of her newly recruited sailors sat in on a two-hour Boat Building School Saturday in the City Hall Council Chamber.
“We’re here because, well, we need to be here,” said Livingston. “We need to figure out exactly what we did wrong and what can we do better.”
The Workman crew wasn’t alone. More than100 people came to hear construction tips on how to build strong boats, what makes a good design, which boat-building supplies are best, and even catch a short engineering course on what makes boats go fast and what makes them, well, sink.
“The biggest mistake most people make is picking one aspect and going overboard with it,” said Ryan Hague, the engineer who addressed the crowd on how to think like an engineer when building your boat.
“It’s all about balance. You have to be able to balance stability with speed and turning ability. You can have the fastest boat out there but if you can’t turn, you’ll get mired in those turns, and you will lose time.”
Gary Daley and Bob Sherwood might have had the most popular presentation – how to actually build a boat. Starting with a large piece of cardboard, they went step-by-step in gluing, taping, cutting, measuring. By the time they finished, they had a small, functioning boat.
“What we try to do most is let folks know what they shouldn’t be doing,” said Daley, a legend of sorts when it comes to the Regatta, since he’s used the same boat for 16 years.
“You can build a really good-looking boat and never make it off the starting line. You can build the walls of the boat so high thinking it will keep water out only to learn your paddles can’t reach the water.”
Activities outside racing include Hook’s Lagoon: a Children’s Area featuring hula-hoop contests and mini-boat regatta, water rides. New this year: a 3-Point Hoops contest and horseshoe tournament. Proceeds help fund the River Legacy Science Foundation.
“It’s such a neat event,” Daley said of the races that began in 1990 with 17 boat entries. Well over 100 are expected this year.
“I really get excited about the school kids. They will be the ones carrying on. Once you get that foothold in the schools, it sort of self-perpetuates.”
(Article written by Ken Perkins)