June 20, 2009

Cardboard boat races - soggy fun for almost everybody

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - The day dawned like most have in the last few days, soggy, rainy and cold. Damn cold. But it didn't dampen any spirits of the would-be-cardboard boat racers or fans at the 15th annual cardboard boat race here today.

It did keep the Admiral and I home until shortly before the race. We opted to skip the parade and pre-race festivities in the downpour that has area creeks running fast and waterfalls impressive enough that tourists are stopping traffic to grab snapshots.

But once at the race, we joined more than a thousand other rain-gear clad fans to watch nearly 100 cardboard craft attempt to navigate a 300-yard race course - without sinking.

Quite a few didn't make it much past the start line with crews forced to swam back in 55-degree water. There were plenty of safety people around to help out, but still, that water is cold.

Prior to the race, the parking lot was full of racers and well-wishers and we ran into a dozen amigos lubricating their boats (and crews) to get ready for the race. Budweiser seemed to be a favorite lube, though many plastic glasses were in evidence filled with clear liquids and what smelled like Fingerlakes wines.

Kristin and Admiral
Admiral Fox with Kristin VanHorn

Boat tips over
Rolled over at the start line

The shore of the Village Marina Harbor and breakwater were crammed with viewers - despite a steady drizzle of rain that sometimes turned to downpours. I imagined what the event must be like on a hot sunny June day - a rarity, I was told, but still possible. We retreated to our dry car before the final heats, with wet shoes and an appreciation for how cold the wet racers must have been feeling. The races ran in three-boat heats and with all the sinking and mayhem, took more than three hours.

This was the 15th annual event, part of a two-day waterfront festival that keeps growing year after year and is an informal kickoff for summer. Next week, the forecast is for a warming trend and an end to the incessant rain.

And already the Admiral has asked about us building a cardboat for next year's race. We certainly are adept at working with duct tape to fix things.

Why not a boat? The good ship Arroyo Seco?

Here's a few photos - and a 6-minute video of today's action.

One boat becomes two
One boat becomes two at start line

Boat that didn't make it
Remains of a boat that didn't make the cut

A boat called 'Bedpan'

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