Cardboard Boat Racing


From a ripe young age, youngsters learn that cardboard and water don’t mix. Whether you be trying to float in the TV box across your backyard pool or you accidentally spill water all over your cereal box or you leave your school project in your pocket before putting it in the wash – everyone knows that water renders cardboard a soggy, irretrievable mess. Yet apparently the founder of cardboard boat racing didn’t keep this age-old law in mind when founding this ridiculous sport. Surprisingly enough, however, corrugated cardboard can actually be quite an effective material to use as a flotation device. Students from universities all over the world as well as keen cardboard boat racers have discovered many a method to keep the cardboard boats afloat throughout four heats of the 200 yard (182.88m) course.

The earliest recorded cardboard boat devices were developed in 1962 by seniors in the design department at Southern Illinois University. Davis Partt gave the his students the challenging task of developing a form of water-borne transportation made out of the corrugated cardboard and other materials that could travel 100ft and which would ensure the keep the user’s clothes dry. The best design was determined by having the lowest score when adding up the amount of time taken to cover the 100ft, the cost of the materials and the weight of the construction relative to the user’s weight. Below is the effective craft that was developed.

The first actual regatta of competing cardboard boats is believed to be in 1987 in Herber Springs, Arkansas, where the World Championship Cardboard Boat Races continues to be held. Together Peggy Reeder, the vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce and Pat Zellmar, owner of the local newspaper, developed an idea for an event on the Greers Ferry Lake that would attract tourists. The competition is also very popular in universities such as Cambridge University and UCLA, and many are conducted to raise money for charities such as Wings of Hope.

Now in it’s 27th year, the annual cardboard boat races in Herber Springs are bigger and more popular than ever, drawing in competitors from all over the United States and even the world. The event has been covered on ESPN, the Discovery Channel, Fox Sports Network and German TV. The cardboard boat races was also awarded with the highly prestigious Henry Award for community development through tourism in 2001. The event generates all year round excitement amongst the local community, as members and businesses set their sights high on creating the optimum cardboard boat.

The 27th World Championship Cardboard Boat Races were just held at the end of July on Sandy Beach in Heber Springs. The fun and popular day features not only the Fleet award for the best boat that can travel the farthest but they also have the Titanic Award, given to the team with the most dramatic sinking. So whether you’re an engineering genius, are just looking for a fun excuse to visit Arkansas, or want to disprove your childhood conceptions of cardboard and water, why not give cardboard boat racing a go?

Now is the perfect time to start planning for the competition next year so apply or checkout the boat building information to set your boat building afloat now.

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