Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | May 21, 2018

Cardboard boat race tests engineering skills

Duct tape, glue, cardboard only materials allowed to build ship
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Jul 14, 2017
Photo by: Andy Hallman/Ledger photos Jasmine Wyatt and her father Steve paddle through the water on their boat “Team Wyatt.” Team members used the same boat they submitted for last year’s competition.

Fairfield’s second annual Great Cardboard Boat Regatta was held Saturday at Waterworks Park.

The event provides a window into the creative and innovative minds of the area’s nautical scientists. Their task: build a boat from nothing but cardboard, duct tape and wood glue that can travel a few hundred yards around Bonnifield Lake.

Boats must contain at least two people. One group learned that where each crew member sat in the boat made a big difference.

The team of Greg Civin and Jake Gray ran into trouble shortly after they put their boat in the water. The boat proved unstable and capsized soon after the horn sounded to begin the race. Civin and Gray had an idea: the back of the boat was too heavy, so if they switched positions, they could move more weight to the front and stabilize the craft. Gray, who was in the back, moved to the front, and voila, the change worked. The two kept the boat upright the rest of the route.

“When we capsized, I didn’t think we were going to make it,” Gray said. Civin was more optimistic.

“I knew that once we switched positions, we would balance the boat and could finish the race,” he said.

Civin mentioned that he and Gray changed the design of this year’s boat from last year’s, which looked like a shoebox. Their most recent vessel had a point in the front, a cross support on top to hold up the sides, and employed glue, which last year’s boat lacked.

Civin and Gray said they spent four to five hours building the craft, which they began at 7 p.m. the night before the race. In addition to their boat, they made a life-size cardboard cutout of a mermaid, which they displayed in their boat before the race.

Another boat that suffered early trouble was commanded by Matthew Johnson and Art Atkinson. Like Civin and Gray’s boat, theirs began sinking almost as soon as it touched the water.

Johnson started out in the back, but that portion of the boat was taking on water faster than the front. Atkinson exited the craft to see if Johnson could paddle the boat by himself sitting up front. The young man paddled with all his might, but he could do little to delay the ship sinking into the lake. Little by little, water overtook the boat until all that was visible was Johnson’s pirate hat.

“We were setting out to sea with a boat we had a lot of faith in,” Johnson said. “The lesson we learned from the experience is that every angle and every edge needs duct tape, and lots of it.”

Atkinson said it was the second year he and his wife Sue Gail, who helped build the boat, participated in the regatta.

“We changed our design from the first year,” Atkinson said. “This time, we used heavier cardboard to make it stronger. It was five-layer corrogated cardboard.”

Gail said the irony of changing the design is that last year’s boat went farther than this one.

“We didn’t do enough duct tape this year, and we should definitely paint the inside of the boat next time,” she said. “Just getting in the boat makes it wet, so we need to waterproof it inside and out.”

Atkinson said last year’s boat was short and wide, whereas this year’s was long and narrow. He said the crew probably made it a bit too narrow.

“It capsized almost immediately, and there was no paint on the inside so once that got wet, it was all over,” he said.

Atkinson said they would have painted the inside had they started building the boat a week sooner than they did, which was the Monday before the competition.

The team of Jasmine Wyatt and her parents Steve and Tina won the regatta as they paddled around the course in lightning speed. Their boat was not only covered in tape but also fully painted, which prevented the cardboard underneath from getting wet.

Members of “Team Wyatt” said they used the same boat as last year, which they built in 24 hours. The only change they made to it was to reinforce it with more tape.

Gwen Marcellus and her sons Brendon, 13, and Aaron, 11, were the fourth team to compete in the regatta. The Marcellus family won the ignominious Titanic Award for “Most Spectacular Sinking” at last year’s event. They made it once around the lake, but on the second try, they had to pull what remained of their boat while swimming across the finish line.

This year, they opted for a kayak design – skinny and long – which was harder to balance but sturdier. Team members said they built the boat a few hours at a time over three weekends.

Saturday’s event was a fundraiser for the Heartland Pregnancy Center in Ottumwa.



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