Racers paddle the course of Big Sky Resort's 3rd annual Carboard Boat Regatta.
CARDBOARD floats… right?
Each year, teams of boat-builders find a wide range of answers to that question at Big Sky Resort’s Cardboard Boat Regatta, a race that tests the mettle and engineering skills of entrants as they attempt to paddle their life-size boats through a frigid water race course. Late Saturday morning, curious spectators and spirited competitors congregated at Lake Levinsky for the 3rd annual race that kicked-off Labor Day Weekend’s Mountain Fest and Spruce Moose Festival celebrations.
At 11am, teams began unloading their boats for inspection, and as the crowds gathered they began to murmur incredulously.
“Will that really float?”
“How did they build that?”
“Where did you find that awesome neon wetsuit?!”
On one extreme, the tweens of team Epic Fail entered the lovingly named Trailer Park Girl: a large, shapeless TV box caulked with foam insulation.
Other groups entered seemingly more seaworthy vessels, including Team Blue Bonnet’s Blue Beast, the first entry to feature a manpowered waterwheel, and the A-Team’s Malaka, an intimidating design incorporating a Polynesian-style outrigger for enhanced stability.
As starting time approached, each team stood poised to enter the icy waters of Lake Levinsky, running forward with their boats at the starting siren. Although all the boats initially fought valiantly for position, only a few moments of jockeying elapsed before Team Lift Operators’ entry, Red Devil, stormed into a dominating lead. Modeling their design after a simple traditional canoe, the Lift Operators demonstrated the truth of the maxim, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The Red Devil approached the finish line, and the two pilots paused briefly to assess their lead. Channeling their bravado, Team Lift Ops boldly turned their boat around, attempting an unprecedented move of lapping the competition - in previous years, not many boats have survived the course for even one lap. As they paddled past the sinking Trailer Park Girl, Team Lift Ops performed a further unprecedented rescue operation, successfully hoisting Epic Fail’s pilot, Reno Klotz, into their cardboard canoe without tipping over their own craft. Unburdened by the extra passenger, the Red Devil passed the remaining three boats with ease, victoriously coasting across the finish line.
While Lift Ops raised the bar for cardboard boat performance, this year’s competitors also elevated the competition for style points. Big Sky's Sales and Marketing Team, Big Sky Lovers, combined function with aesthetics in their uniform design, with paddler Katie Grice wearing a dress over her wetsuit and paddler Jamie Leary modeling a radical vintage wetsuit design from approximately 1991. Unfortunately for the Lovers, their style sense didn’t translate to victory on the water, despite the impressive effort they put forth on the Big Sky Love Boat.
Back on dry land, limp and soggy cardboard lined Lake Levinsky’s shores, but onlookers cheered as Team Lift Ops was presented with the coveted Cardboard Cup – a gold spray-painted toy shark mounted on cardboard. They’ll proudly display it for the next year, theirs along with bragging rights until they defend their title with a new boat at next year’s regatta. For them, it’s proof of what can be done with a few old boxes, a roll of duct tape, and some innovation. Who says cardboard doesn’t float?
- Cameron Lord, TWISI guest writer
See the Red Devil in action: Cardboard Boat Regatta 2011 Video
Check out the cardboard carnage from years past and footage from the weekend's Mountain Fest and Spruce Moose Festival.
The winning boat, Red Devil, starts a victory lap after schooling the competition.
Jamie Leary and Katie Grice won style points for the Big Sky Love Boat.
Red devil took the lead early while Trailer Park Girl lagged behind.
Jamie Leary and Katie Grice keep paddling despite a water-logged hull.
Team Lift Ops celebrates victory with the Cardboard Cup.