December 2, 2016

Pirates Invade Regatta

Pirates Invade Regatta
October 3, 2013

The sixth annual Cardboard Canoe Regatta drew an enthusiastic crowd to Piasa Harbor two weeks ago. Most vessels crossed the finish line, while a few boats (and racers) sank (briefly) into the mighty Mississippi. It was a closely contested race this year with a mere three seconds between the two top finishers, and only two seconds between the third- and fourth-place racers. “I’m beyond excited that this year’s race was such a success,” says senior Kali McKee, who came in second with her rowing partner, Brian Ritter, also a senior.

Following the competition, several top finishers shared insights about boat construction. “I sought out very large, dense, quadruple-layered cardboard boxes in order to create a double hull design,” says sophomore Bryan Gerould, who finished third. “I wrapped the buoyant, inner, triangular hull with a separate cardboard outer shell. Three layers of water-based paint later, I had a very durable boat! My goal was never to touch the water, and thankfully that was accomplished.”

Freshman Julie Cooke, who placed first, took a simpler approach. “I used one piece of cardboard as the outer layer to limit weak connecting points,” she shares. “Because it was a one-person boat, I designed it to be like a small canoe so I could easily paddle it by myself.”

One entry joined the race not to bring home a first-place finish but to infuse the event with a unique brand of fun. A group of Westies had long hoped to build a canoe to accommodate a crowd, envisioning an eight-man Vikingesque ship. While this design didn’t exactly come to fruition, five Westies committed about 45 man-hours to construct an 18-foot boat with a supporting structure similar to a surfboard, with several “ribs” containing packing peanuts and air for buoyancy. A layer of plastic wrap and four layers of cardboard enveloped their clever—but not officially legal—vessel.

“The final touch was a layer of roofing tar provided by Home Depot,” senior Shelby Miller says. “We also went through 20 rolls of duct tape. Then we invited Patrick McCreary [a theatre arts professor] to join us because he’s . . . a fine example of a Westie. Also, we had no doubt that he would come adequately dressed for the occasion.”

Sure enough, McCreary donned a pirate costume and helped the Westies paddle to a nearby island. Not wishing to keep the crowd waiting for the awards celebration, they curtailed their original goal to cross the Mississippi River and allowed a motorboat piloted by John Lovseth of the biology department and Provost Scott Schneberger to tow them back to shore, where they were met by a crowd of cheering spectators.

Don’t miss the pictures of the regatta, including the pirate ship! And here are the official results:

First  Place
Julie Cooke—1:58

Second Place
Brian Ritter and Kali McKee—2:01

Third Place
Bryan Gerould—2:25

Fourth Place
Adam Eckert and Tamara Thomas—2:27

Booby Prize (Quickest to sink)
Richard Bonsi

Largest boat
Lowrey House


  • Bud

    Sounds like a great deal of fun with some learning infused. Congrats to all!!