Cardboard cruisers race on Campus Lake

By Gus Bode

An air horn sounded at the beginning of the boat race at Campus Lake and two men leapt onto their Huck Finn-style cardboard boat held together with saran wrap and duct tape and paddled madly toward the first red, bobbing buoy.

As the cardboard became waterlogged and disintegrated, the two threw water balloons at their opponents in an attempt to steer them off course.


Holding on to the last bits of their boat floating on the water, one member of the team tossed one last balloon before shouting, “We’re done!”

The two gathered the masses of sopping, sour-smelling cardboard and swam back to sunny shore to laughter and applause from the audience of hundreds who attended the 34th Annual Great Cardboard Boat Regatta Saturday afternoon.

More than 30 boats competed in the race, garnering trophies for the best team boat, best use of cardboard, as well as the Titanic Award, given to the team whose boat sank the best.

The watercrafts, made out of cardboard and building materials such as tape and sealant, were paddled around a U-shaped, 300-yard course.

Nick Osifcin, a senior from Carterville studying administration of justice, was in his fifth year of competing at the regatta. His boat, the “Water Weasel,” came in third, although in previous years he said he has placed as high as second.

Osifcin said he hoped the Water Weasel would last for a few more years.

“It probably took us about 30 minutes to draw out the plans,” he said. “After that it was a lot of ‘that’s good enough, it’s close enough, it’s nothing caulk won’t fix.'”


Many creative boats including a battleship with cardboard guns, as well as a crocodile boat with a tail that snaked out over the water, and plenty of pirate flags accompanied the Water Weasel in the race.

The regatta even featured a boat more than 130 feet long that held eight people to row.

Several members of the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale competed in the children’s category and the regatta also included four teams who built “instant boats” in an hour and a half.

Only one “instant boat” completed the course.

Jeff Colin, a freshman from Homewood studying film, was one of many in attendance and walked by the regatta with a group of friends. He said he was initially drawn in by the crowds and saw one of the heats in the race.

“There were three people paddling madly and two of them were sinking,” he said. “For the most part we were just standing there laughing because everybody kept going in circles.”

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