Nerd Culture

Geek Beat: The 10th Annual Cardboard Boat Regatta

This weekend, we were torn between two potentially geeky boat-related events -- the traveling Titanic exhibit and the Rotary River Rally's Cardboard Boat Regatta. In the end, the Regatta won out because, barring some Anime convention or X-Men movie premiere, us geeks will naturally flock to the event which requires intelligence, creativity and the total willingness to make a fool out of yourself. 

Like a lot of geek races (robots, anyone?), the regatta started out as a class project. You know, make a bridge that holds 20 lbs., make a working water clock, make a flimsy paper boat and sail around the town lake to see if it sinks. In this case, the professor of a college architectural design class imagined the boat project as a way to get his students thinking three-dimensionally. Easy, right? Uh-huh. Entrants must make their boats entirely out of cardboard and waterproof paint, with caulk and duct tape allowed at the seams.

If it's not a school requirement, why would anyone do this?? Fame? Fortune? A chance to swim (legally) in the murky Tempe Town Lake? Or maybe they just do it because they can, like Randy Smith, creator of five-time winner Moby Brick. "It's a class 2 boat, which means it doesn't have to be made all out of cardboard like the other boats," Smith says. "Steering and propulsion can be non-cardboard materials, so I've got plastic pipes and metal."

Smith has been participating since the first race a decade ago, and though this particular boat was clearly a winner, he's had a few Titanic failures. "I built a model of the Titanic about three years ago. A friend of mine built an iceberg [boat] and we happened to be in the same race. Somehow there was a collision," quips Smith. "It was a tragic coincidence." We kept waiting for the punchline, the laughter. Some clue that he was kidding. But Smith was dead serious, even claiming that his Titanic sank bow first like the real thing.

For more shots of cardboard regatta goodness, check out our slide show.

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Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden