April 06, 2012

Spackman triathlon, boat regatta are April 28

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A wet, wild, wonderful twin tradition returns to Southern Illinois University Carbondale on April 28.

It’s time for the 29th Annual Doc Spackman Memorial Triathlon and the 39th Annual Great Cardboard Boat Regatta and everyone is welcome to join in the fun.  There’s still plenty of time if you want to participate in either event and of course, “Splashin’ Saturday,” as it has become known, is a family friendly day for spectators of all ages.

The triathlon starts at campus lake at 8 a.m. and includes a 385-yard swim, five-mile bicycle ride and two-mile run.  Participants must sign in between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. and bring their own equipment, including required bicycle helmets.  You can compete as an individual or on a three-person team, with each person completing one leg of the race.

Competitors should register by 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 26, at the Student Recreation Center Administrative Office.  The registration fee is $20 for individuals or $30 for teams that sign up by that date.  Organizers will accept late registrations too, but the cost is $5 more.  The contest field is limited to the first 25 teams and 300 individuals to register. 

All ages are welcome.  There are separate competition divisions for men and women, divided according to ages, and there are also wheelchair and youth divisions.  Those younger than age 18 must provide a waiver signed by a parent or guardian. 

Teams with members having a combined age of 104 or less will compete in the junior division and those with a combined age of 105 or higher will compete in the senior division.  Men’s, women’s and co-rec teams are welcome and there’s also a “specialty” team division for groups or organizations.

There are prizes for the top finishers in individual age groups, the top male and female overall winners and top placers in each team category.

“You just can’t beat a great spring morning at the lake participating in the 29th Annual Doc Spackman Memorial Triathlon,” said Kathy Hollister, assistant director of special populations for Recreational Sports and Services at the University.

The triathlon honors the late Robert “Doc” Spackman, a nationally know physical fitness expert who was a longtime athletics trainer at SIU Carbondale. 

The boat regatta kicks off at noon.  Registration begins at 10 a.m. at the campus boat docks. 

Boats of all shapes and sizes, propelled in a variety of ways, will attempt to cross the finish line at the end of the u-shaped course as fast as possible.  Of course, it’s not just about how fast you complete the race but IF you complete the race at all, since all watercrafts are made of corrugated cardboard.  Through the years, audiences have enjoyed some truly spectacular “Titanic” moments while watching the race.

There are four classes for the big boat regatta:  human-powered boats (oars or paddles are fine but no mechanical mechanisms), mechanically powered boats (paddlewheels and things like that are fine but no gas engines), instant boats (created the day of the race with only materials in the provided kit) and children’s boats (with boat pilots age 13 or younger.) 

If you want to make your boat ahead of time, you can purchase 7-foot by 8-foot cardboard sheets now in the stockrooms on the east end of the first and second floors at the Neckers building.  Contact Mary Kinsel to buy sheets for $3 each.  You may pay by cash or by check payable to SIU Carbondale with Alpha Chi Sigma/Cardboard Boat Regatta on the memo line.

Or, just show up on race day, pay the $15 registration fee required for all boats, and pick up an instant boat kit at no extra cost.  The kit includes a 7-foot by 8-foot piece of cardboard, plastic sheeting, a box cutter, a roll of duct tape and a nail.  You’ve got two hours to use your imagination and create a water-worthy watercraft.

At the end of the day, there are trophies for the winning sailors in each class.  There is a special prize too for “Most Innovative Use of Cardboard” and of course, the popular Titanic Award commemorates the best boat sinking.

There’s no cost for spectators to attend either of the Splashin’ Saturday sports spectaculars and they happen rain or shine.  You can bring along lunch or snacks and picnic beside the lake.  They are family friendly events so no alcohol or drugs allowed.  You’ll also be able to purchase event T-shirts at the boat regatta.

The cardboard boat race dates back to a 1974 freshman art and design class project Richard Archer assigned his students at SIU Carbondale.  Their mission was to build functional boats from corrugated cardboard.  The result was a happening so fun and memorable, it quickly shifted from a classroom project to a phenomenon that gained worldwide attention. 

In the years since, the race has drawn more than 4,000 boats and more than half a million spectators.  Gaining an international following, it has made its way to television and more than 2,000 schools and organizations around the world have staged their own versions.             Larry “Skip” Briggs and W. Larry Busch, now both retired professors in the School of Art and Design, coordinated the event for many years.

But in 2010 they stepped down and Alpha Chi Sigma, the University’s professional chemistry fraternity, jumped in to continue the tradition.  Tara McIntyre, president of Alpha Chi Sigma, said the regatta is one of the group’s main spring events, and fits quite nicely with their other science outreach efforts including volunteering at local schools and the Science Center. 

For more information about the 39th Annual Great Cardboard Boat Regatta, contact McIntyre at tmcintyre@siu.edu.  To get additional details about the 29th Annual Doc Spackman Memorial Triathlon, contact Hollister at holistr@siu.edu or 618/453-1267.  You can also find both events online at www.reccenter.siu.edu under the heading “calendars and events,” then click on “special events.”