By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
If you are not familiar with the United Way of Harrison County’s (UWHC) annual regatta, it is perhaps somewhat atypical. The word “regatta” may cause you to picture yachts competitively sailing the San Francisco Bay … or the popular rowing regatta, the Henley Royal Regatta, held on the River Thames in England. While these both are regatta races with strict rules and regulations – as is the United Way’s regatta – you’ll be hard pressed to find a more spirited event than the “Live United Regatta” held locally!
Yes, it is a much smaller scale, but nonetheless very competitive! And it calls for lots of hard work and imagination in the construction process of the CARDBOARD vessels that compete. The “Live United Regatta” is more than a race and more than a delight for spectators. Its primary purpose is to raise awareness of the community partnership and fundraising efforts for the United Way’s 20 funded agencies.
“This is our third year for the cardboard boat race,” stated Tina Yoke, Executive Director of UWHC, “and this event has become quite popular! Everyone is always very curious to see how other teams have used their creativity in designing their rowing vessels … and we’ve witnessed in the past some great ingenuity. We’ve had pirate ships, cartoon character ships, and even a boat designed around the ‘Jaws’ theme! It’s not just the vessels themselves that exhibit creativity, but the crew members as well dress up to coordinate with the theme of their boat. It is something to see.”
This year, because the event will be held on September 11th, the suggestion has been made that participants keep the significance of what happened on 9/11 in mind and design around that theme.
“We also have a change of venue this year; our regatta will be held at Maple Lake in Bridgeport for the first time,” Yoke added. “We are hoping the regatta will grow even bigger this year.”
Participants will check in at noon on Race Day and the first race will begin at 1:30 p.m. Crews will man their vessels, row out to a buoy, go around it, and then head back to the starting point. First, second and third place awards for the fastest finishing time will be awarded in each of the race’s five divisions.
Divisions include a Junior division for ages 12 to 17; a Family division with no minimum age as long as a parent is present in the boat), an Adult division for ages 18 and over, a Business division and a Non-Profit division.
A “People’s Choice Award” will also be given, determined by spectators’ votes (vote tickets can be purchased for $1 each); along with several other recognitions – “Team Spirit Award” (based on costumes, props, special effects, working the crowd, etc.); “Best in Race Award” (fastest team to cross the finish line); and “The Wonder That Went Down Under Award” given for the most spectacular sinking!
There are strict rules and regulations to adhere to so that it is a fair race. For example, the ENTIRE boat must be built of cardboard, duct tape and one part polyurethane and must be less than six feet wide. Up to four crew members are allowed per boat, and it must be maneuvered and propelled by at least one paddling crewmember. In other words, swimming crewmembers cannot push a boat through the course to the finish line because it truly IS a legitimate race!
If you think you’re up to the challenge, you can visit the United Way’s website at www.unitedwayhcwv.org for a complete listing of design regulations, materials that can and cannot be used, race rules and procedures, construction research tips, and other pertinent information. Judges do have the right to disqualify any team that has failed to abide by the race rules.
“In the past, we’ve had some real engineering thought go into boat designs!” Yoke continued. “And we have also had some boats sink quickly out of the starting gate! But it’s fun to watch and spectators really enjoy it.”
Participants may register online and should register by September 4th. Registration fees vary according to divisions and categories. This information is also available by visiting www.unitedwayhcwv.org.
Yoke concluded, “We had teams from Lincoln and Liberty High Schools to participate last year and we’d like to see more high school teams enter into this friendly competition. We also have some teams interested in participating, but they are looking for sponsors to build the boats for them. They will pay the registration fee and crew members; they just need someone to construct the boat for them. Builders are invited to contact us at 304-624-6337 if they are interested in participating in this manner.”
The “Live United Regatta”, a cardboard boat race, is the kickoff event for the United Way of Harrison County’s 2017 campaign, and while the fundraising aspect is its principal goal, it is still a family-friendly activity with music and food along with the race to provide an entertaining outdoor day! Mark your calendars for September 11th.