Sailing to victory at the 13th annual boat race

By Carlee Berkenkemper

Elm Staff Writer

edited.BoatRace_RebeccaKanaskieThis year, The Center for Environment and Society, one of Washington College’s signature centers, is celebrating its 20 year anniversary during Fall Family Weekend with “CES at 20: Celebrate at the Waterfront” and the ribbon cutting of WC’s newest building, the Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall. On Sept 22 from noon to 4 p.m. at Wilmer Park, there will be live music, beer, wine, food, and, of course, the 13th annual 300-meter cardboard boat race on the Chester River.

The anticipated cardboard boat race will take place Sept 22 at 3 p.m.

Director of CES John Seidel, spoke on the origins of the competition. “It really is a way to get students down to the water. I noticed after talking to students that many hadn’t been down to the Waterfront, and we needed to fix that. The boathouse manager at the time and I came up with the idea of a waterfront festival and we’ve been doing it ever since,” Seidel said.

Jamie Frees Miller, center coordinator for CES, has participated in and currently helps run the event.

“The annual cardboard boat race is a fun event many look forward to each year. In the past, we have seen students participate freshman year through senior year sometimes using the same boat, that is if it doesn’t sink the first moment it hits the water. We’ve also seen sports teams build boats as a great team bonding experience,” Miller said.

So how do you successfully build a boat out of cardboard and make it last for years?

Get creative. The CES sponsored race has seen kayaks, pirate ships, rafts, cars, airplanes, space shuttles, animals, and even a floating vessel shaped like a bratwurst. Color paint is an easy way to make your creation come to life, and it is also an important part of success because paint is what seals out water. Seidel suggests painting the inside of the boat as well since water will surely be splashed in.

Get started on boat construction as soon as possible. Approved construction materials are limited to corrugated cardboard, tape, water-soluble caulk or silicone sealant, water-based wood glue, water-soluble outdoor latex-based primer, and paint.

Seidel advised not waiting to start until the day before the race, unless you want to watch your boat go under. The list of suggestions CES created includes building a model with manila folders before attempting to wrangle the cardboard.

Get a grasp of engineering and physics principles if you are set on winning.

“You can do the math to figure out how much weight displaces a cubic foot of water. It’s about 62 lbs., so you can figure out how many cubic feet you need inside the boat. You also have to figure out its width – if it’s too narrow, it tips; if it’s too wide, you can’t paddle. The sides shouldn’t be so low you’ll be shifting water overboard, but you don’t want them so high you can’t get your arms over them. Theoretically, according to physics, a longer boat will go faster, but you have to turn it around a buoy and if it’s too long, it’s harder to turn,” Seidel said.

Sophomore Michael Nichols entered the competition last year with fellow students Jacob Goudy and Caroline Draper in a kayak-shaped boat dubbed “Speedo Shark” and advises future competitors to keep science in mind during the designing process.

“We planned to have two people in the boat, however we kind of ignored balancing weight. Ultimately it ended up me in the back, and my significantly lighter friend in the front, which led to the boat tipping a bit, gradually letting more and more water inside. Once water enters your boat that’s pretty much the end. When water is inside it gets to all the binding adhesives that we didn’t cover with tape, so it started crumpling,” Nichols said.

The competition will be judged by the president and first lady of WC — President Kurt Landgraf and his wife, Rita — along with a third guest judge. Categories include people’s choice for design, and first, second, and third place in completing the course.

Also note that teams must consist of two to six people. Any WC alumni, student, faculty, or staff as well as any Kent or Queen Anne’s county resident over 12 years of age may participate. A $15 entry fee is required per team and potential prizes amount to over $650.

Marisa Atkins, class of 2015 and outreach and event coordinator of CES, said, “The Cardboard Boat Race is an annual part of WC’s Fall Family Weekend, where we celebrate the town, the campus and the Chester River. It is a favorite among the Fall Family Weekend events, because whether you sink or make it to the finish line, you’re going to have a blast.”

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