Cardboard Regatta Takes To The Seas For Columbia Voyage

March 06, 1991|By Margaret E. Friedrich | Margaret E. Friedrich,Contributing writer

THIS YEAR, THE COLUMBIA VOYAGE — which last year had sails but no boat -- will take to the water.

The voyage will conduct a cardboard regatta on the not-so-open-sea ofLake Kittamaqundi, inviting area residents to design and build cardboard motorless boats for a June 15 race.

The $10 entrance fee will benefit the Columbia Forum, a non-profit group of residents organizing the regatta as a part of the ColumbiaVoyage. The voyage is a four-year period of laying down plans to help mold the New Town's future. In last year's voyage project, community members erected masts with decorative sails they had made.

"Cardboard really won't sink. It may get soggy. It takes some thought to make one water-worthy," said Columbia lawyer Tom Busch, who inspired the regatta. "Any kid that's played with bicycles can do this."

Busch said that the record number on a cardboard craft is 56 people and two dogs. The Columbia regatta will limit each boat to eight marinersand no dogs.

"The idea behind it is the joy of success. I think it's really a wonderful teaching device," Busch said. "I think people will be surprised at how long their boats will hold up."

Busch worked with "cardboard commodore" Tom Archer, design professor at Southern Illinois University. There, the cardboard boat challenge was firstgiven to design students by Archer's predecessor in the 1950s. Whileserving as assistant to the president of the university 18 years ago, Busch decided that a regatta would promote the school, raise money and involve alumni in activities. The class assignment mushroomed into a 200-boat regatta at the university and into contests in 10 Midwestern states and Florida.

Busch hopes the Columbia regatta will expand to become the statewide "Maryland Cardboard Cup."

Cardboard, tape and glue will be the only materials holding Columbia's boats together. Metals, wood, and two-part substances, such as epoxy, are forbidden.

Several businesses have offered to sponsor individual boat-makers who agree to put the company name on their boats, said ColumbiaForum Executive Director Gail Saunier.

"The response has been heartening," she said.

All vessels will be inspected to ensure they meet U.S. Coast Guard safety standards. Sailors must wear approved flotation devices.

Chemically treated cardboard will be shipped to area stores within the next few months. A workshop run by Archer about six weeks before the regatta will teach captains and shipmates to bend cardboard and seal the seams to make watertight boats. The ColumbiaForum will issue full rules shortly, Saunier said.

Options for boat styles are unlimited -- Busch said he's seen everything from pirate ships to floating gerbil cages.

The creative endeavors must fall into one of three categories. Class I boats must be made entirely of corrugated cardboard and propelled by oars or by kayak or canoe paddles. Class II craft can be propelled by all other forms of muscle-powered devices, including paddle wheels, propellers or sails. Class III encompasses instant boats made of "secret kits" that will be sold and constructed the day of the regatta.

First, second and third place prizes for navigating around the 200-yard triangular course four times are less important than creativity in boat design, which determines the best seaman in this competition. The "Pride of the Regatta" prize will be awarded for the most creative design, the "Vogue Award" for the most attractive or spectacular-looking boat, the "Team Award"for the most spirited team, and the "Titanic Award" for the most spectacular sinking.

For its registration fee, each crew will receivea T-shirt with the regatta and Columbia Voyage logos, a photo of theboat and a pennant displaying the boat number. A portion of the money will pay for the rights to hold a cardboard regatta; the idea was copyrighted by Southern Illinois University and later sold to TIPS, a non-profit think tank in Chicago.

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