March 27, 2017

44th annual boat regatta set for April 29

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- When you combine sheets of cardboard, a bonding agent, ingenuity and fun-loving adventurers who create boats they hope can actually carry them across the water, it’s obviously time for a favorite Southern Illinois University Carbondale tradition – the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta.

The 44th annual regatta is set for April 29 at Evergreen Park’s Carbondale Reservoir boat launch. Boat registration and inspection starts at 10 a.m. and the racing begins at 1 p.m.

One and all are welcome – either as contestants or spectators. Organizers are inviting individuals and groups from the community to build boats and join in the fun.

“This is a great activity for scouts, after-school programs, church youth groups, families and all kinds of organizations to participate in,” Mary Kinsel, associate scientist, senior lecturer and adviser for Alpha Chi Sigma, the SIU professional chemistry fraternity that organizes the event, said. “We’re also challenging local businesses to build and race boats to promote themselves to the community, too. And, if you can’t build a boat, come out to watch the boats race and sink.”

There are trophies and awards for the top finishers in each race category as well as for the most creative floating vessels and the best team boat. If your watercraft proves to be less than seaworthy, you could still emerge from the waters with a prize. The Titanic Award goes to the boat that sinks in the most spectacular fashion.

The race categories include: boats powered by paddles; mechanical boats powered by paddle wheels, propellers or other forms of muscle-driven propulsion; and boats that are built the day of the regatta. Corrugated cardboard of any thickness must be used to create each boat. Builders can construct the boats using glue, caulk, tape or another such substance to hold the cardboard together and provide simple waterproofing.

The cost to enter a boat is just $15 if you register in advance. Those who enter on race day will pay $20. Instant boat kits will be available on a first-come, first-served basis that day and the late contestants will have approximately two hours to build their watercraft.

Find additional details and online registration on the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta Facebook Page.

Watching the fun unfold is always free. It’s a family friendly event that has drawn crowds for decades. There will also be food and beverages available for purchase at the regatta from various community and student organizations.

The event originated nearly a half-century ago as a creative design class project for Richard Archer’s art and design students at SIU. Since that time, it’s been replicated around the globe but it remains a favorite tradition in Carbondale. Sponsors of this year’s event include Alpha Chi Sigma, SIU, the Carbondale Park District and the City of Carbondale.

Boat builders can purchase seven-by-eight foot cardboard sheets, perfect for boat building, on campus in the Chemistry Department of the Neckers Building at SIU. Sheets are $3 each and a standard boat requires about four sheets.

To make arrangements to purchase cardboard or for more information about the regatta, contact Kinsel at 618/453-6428.