Pirates Invade Regatta
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:
Brian Ritter and Kali McKee—2:01
Adam Eckert and Tamara Thomas—2:27
Booby Prize (Quickest to sink)