2009 Annual Cardboard Boat Race Makes a Splash

Twenty teams competed in the 2009 Annual Cardboard Boat Race, which has been a family weekend tradition for 16 years. (Photo by Brendan O’Hara)
Twenty teams competed in the 2009 Annual Cardboard Boat Race, which has been a family weekend tradition for 16 years. (Photo by Brendan O’Hara) Click here to view more photos.

Hundreds of spectators lined the banks of the St. Mary’s River to watch the sixteenth annual Cardboard Boat Race last Saturday as part of the College’s 2009 Family Weekend.

The Cardboard Boat Race consisted of twenty teams, many composed of both faculty members and students. Leanne Gradijan, a first-year student at St. Mary’s and a race participant, said that each team was required to follow a specific set of rules governing boat construction.

“You weren’t allowed to have the plastic covering on the inside of the boat,” she said. “You had to do it within the time limit they gave you, and you could only use the material they provided in the kit—cardboard, duct tape, twine, wood, scissors, rulers…you had three hours. You could be disqualified if you didn’t follow these rules.”

Every boat was a different shape, size, and design. Richard Loheed, Assistant Director of Waterfront Activities, said that no one team was favored to win. “People sink…people make faster boats, people make slower boats…you never know who’s going to win,” he said.

Competitors launched from the shoreline and paddled around three buoys before crossing the finish line.  Some boaters sank, but most completed the course.  The race was divided into two heats and a final. The first five teams that crossed the finish line in Heat A and B raced in a final heat to determine which team built the swiftest, hardiest and most waterproof boat.

The Windsurfing Club won the first place prize of $300. Junior Nathan Hesse raced for the Windsurfing Club. He was ecstatic that his team had won. “It was a lot of fun…a great race,” he said. “It’s a team putting a boat together.”  Ladies Offshore Team came in second with a prize of $250, team  Banana Hammocks came in third place with a prize of $200, and team Third Time Lucky came in fifth place with a prize of $100.

Dr. Matthew Wells, a math professor at St. Mary’s College, was one of several faculty members who participated in the race. His team, We Grade You, won the fourth place prize of $150. He explained that his secret to success was “cross bracing, [which] keeps the boat from folding one way or another…and team work.” He added that he’d be ready next year to win again. “We started out in last in the first race and we got fourth in the final race…and we feel pretty good. Our boat could have gone faster. And next year, it will.”

Cindy Dyer, a parent who attended family weekend, liked watching the race. “What I really enjoyed was seeing how much fun the students had making the boats,” she said. “[It’s] something other than at big colleges where you’d be watching a football game…this was unique and more intimate. Everything about family weekend was perfect…including the weather.”

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