April 23, 2010

37th boat regatta set for May 1 at campus lake

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Once feared to be a thing of the past, the 37th Annual Great Cardboard Boat Regatta is back in all its splashing glory at Southern Illinois University Carbondale for 2010. The race is set to begin at noon on Saturday, May 1, at the campus lake boat dock.

What began in 1974 as a project for students in Richard Archer’s freshman art and design class has become an international experience. The original assignment was to build a functional boat from corrugated cardboard.

Litte did Archer suspect at the time that the SIUC community would so embrace the race that has since attracted more than 4,000 boats and drawing more than a half million spectators. More than 2,000 other schools and organizations around the world have replicated the amazing race in the 36 years since it began.

Sometimes, the watercrafts sail fast and smooth across the water. Sometimes they bob and bounce slowly through the course. And sometimes, they sink in utterly Titanic fashion. Sure, the water is still plenty chilly on regatta day. But, what could be more fun for the whole family than watching ships with costumed pirates, a yellow banana boat bearing “monkeys,” and other vessels attempting to actually make it from the starting line around the u-shaped 300-yard course to the finish line?

Longtime coordinators Larry “Skip” Briggs and W. Larry Busch, both retired professors in the School of Art and Design, announced they were stepping down as captains for the race this year and the search was on to find someone to keep it afloat. The University’s Alpha Chi Sigma organization stepped up to do just that. Derek Burnet, ACS president, said Briggs and Busch have been extremely helpful advisers as the professional chemistry fraternity learns the ins and outs of putting on the regatta.

The Great Cardboard Boat Regatta is a family oriented, alcohol-free event for students and the community. Registration and boat inspections run 10 a.m. until noon on May 1.

Boats will compete in four categories. Class I is for those propelled by canoe paddles, oars, or kayak paddles, while Class II is for those utilizing mechanical paddle wheels, propellers, plungers or other novel forms of people-powered propulsion. The third class is for all instant boats built on race day and the final class is for boats built by kids age 13 and younger.

The top finishers in each class get trophies. There are also special awards for the most spectacular sinking, best use of cardboard and best team boat.

The registration fee is $15 for each boat. You can pick up corrugated cardboard to build your boat at the blue barracks (building 0720) on East Grand Street; it’s the closest blue building to the railroad tracks. The cost is $3 per sheet and a standard boat typically requires four sheets.

Or, you can buy an instant boat kit the morning of the race. Since there are a limited number of kits available, an 11 a.m. lottery will determine who gets the kits. Each kit includes one sheet of cardboard, a box knife, a nail and a small roll of duct tape to build an instant boat.

Organizers will supply kayak paddles, oars and life preservers on race day.

The show goes on rain or shine. Refreshments will be available. Sponsors for the 37th Annual Great Cardboard Boat Regatta are SIUC and the city of Carbondale.

For more information, contact Burnett at dburnet@siu.edu or 618/521-5946 or Briggs at bbriggs@siu.edu or 618/521-5071. Or, check out the new Facebook page by searching for “2010 SIU Cardboard Boat Regatta.”