April 20, 2009

Triathlon, boat regatta set for Saturday, April 25

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A dip in the lake is guaranteed for competitors in one of this weekend’s Splashin’ Saturday events at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, but contestants in another will be peddling, rowing and doing virtually anything in their power to avoid winding up in the chilly waters.

It’s the 26th annual Doc Spackman Memorial Triathlon and the 36th Great Cardboard Boat Regatta. Both are set for Saturday, April 25, at campus lake. There’s also racing on a miniature scale with a dinghy race.

“Splashin’ Saturday is a wonderful family event,” said Kathy Hollister, assistant director of special populations for Recreational Sports and Services. “Combining the Spackman Triathlon and the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta for a day of fun at campus lake has been one of the best things we’ve done. Both events welcome participants and/or fans of all ages!”

The triathlon bears the name of the late Robert “Doc” Spackman, a nationally recognized physical fitness expert and longtime SIUC athletics trainer. The race starts at 8 a.m. with a 385- yard swim followed by a five-mile bike ride and two-mile run.

Signup is between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. Saturday at the campus lake beach. The event is open to all ages and there are numerous age group categories, along with wheelchair and youth divisions. Participants provide their own equipment and bike helmets are a requirement.

You can compete individually or in two-person or three-person teams, with each person competing one or two legs of the contest. Teams can be men, women or mixed and they’ll compete in the junior (for cumulative team age of 104 years or less), senior (combined age 105 years or more) or specialty category for designated groups or clubs. Plaques go to top finishers.

The registration deadline is 4 p.m. Friday, April 24, at the Student Recreation Center administrative office and the cost is $15 for individuals or $25 for teams. Late on-site registration is $5 higher. The entry form is online at www.reccenter.siu.edu.

Originating as a creative design class project for Richard Archer’s art and design students, the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta has become a global phenomenon. More than 100,000 people have viewed the spectacle, anxious to see if competitors can indeed craft a seaworthy boat of corrugated cardboard and little else. They’ve seen the watercraft sail to spectacular finishes and sink in Titanic form. It’s a unique test of creativity, imagination and design know-how.

Stop by the blue barracks (building 0720), the building closest to the railroad tracks on East Grand Street, on the SIUC campus to purchase cardboard for $3 a sheet and test your boat-building skills. Most boats typically require about four sheets to construct.

Registration is $15 per boat and occurs 10 a.m. to noon at the campus lake boat dock. There will also be a limited number of instant boat kits awarded by lottery drawing that morning. Competitors will see what they can do with a sheet of cardboard, a box knife, a nail, a small roll of tape and two hours time.

The regatta goes on rain or shine. There are trophies for top finishers in each boat class and special awards recognizing the most spectacular sinking, best use of cardboard and best team boat. Some boats are powered solely with paddles or oars while others utilize paddle wheels, sails or propellers. Larry Briggs and W. Larry Busch, both retired professors from the School of Art and Design, are orchestrators for the 2009 Great Cardboard Boat regatta.

Briggs anticipates about 40 boats will hit the water Saturday. It’s anybody’s guess how many will make it to the finish line though.

“The races are incredibly fun for those who participate and for those who watch,” Briggs said. “It’s also the chance to see how you can do making an instant boat and putting it out on the lake where you’ll possibly -- no, make that probably -- get wet.”

The Carbondale Park District is also sponsoring a dinghy race for all ages Saturday. The tiny boats will race in horse troughs beginning around 10 a.m. and racing will continue until about 2 p.m. Splashin’ Saturday is a family event, alcohol-free and packed with laughs and fun, including face painting and concessions.

For more information about the Spackman triathlon contact Kathy Hollister at 618/453-1267 or via e-mail at Hollister@siu.edu. For additional details about the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta contact Larry Briggs at 618/521-5071 or Larry Busch at 618/549-5677. You’ll also find more information about both events online at www.reccenter.siu.edu.