Cardboard Boat Racing Gains Popularity

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Sink or swim- that’s the question every cardboard boat captain must face on race day. After all, cardboard isn’t usually the first material to come to mind when designing a seaworthy vessel. Preferred material or not, the popularity of cardboard boat, also called cardboard regatta, races continues to grow each year.

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A student tests out his cardboard boat in Professor Davis Pratt's 1962 design challenge. Photo: www.grantmaclaren.com

Although its exact origins are up for debate, most believe the cardboard boat originated in1962 at Southern Illinois University.

Professor Davis Pratt, in an assignment aimed at testing his students creativity in design, asked the seniors to design and build human-sized boats made only of corrugated cardboard. More than 45 years later, cardboard boat races are going stronger than ever.

There’s even a book on how to build a cardboard boat. The Cardboard Boat Book: How to Build and Environmentally Friendly Boat with Recyclable Resources, by Dave Friant, provides step-by-step instruction on how to build a kayak style  boat with corrugated cardboard.

The boats do not have to be made kayak style as outlined in the book. From pirate ships to riverboats and airplanes to animals, boats can and have been designed in any fashion that will float, so long as they are made of corrugated cardboard. Boats should be capable of completing at least three trips around a 200-yard course, to meet the challenge of The Great Cardboard Boat Regatta races.

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The cardboard boat regattas have come along way since the prototypes in 1962, as seen in this pirate ship entry. Photo: Piratesweekfestival.com

But Can it be Recycled?

We’re always advocates of reusing materials to make new creations, and cardboard boat races definitely fit the bill. That being said, it is necessary to check your local recycling program rules as most recyclers will not accept wet cardboard for recycling.

There are various reasons recyclers may not accept wet cardboard, from the extra water weight skewing the cost of purchasing the material to the potential of jamming the recycling sorting machines.

Let the cardboard dry before placing it in a recycle bin. Paint and other decorative additions to the cardboard boats should also be considered, as those will usually render the cardboard non-recyclable.

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Comments

  1. That’s great!!! Yup, I believe it started at SIU Carbondale. I used to watch the race on Campus Lake from my dorm!!!

  2. Hi there ,
    I believe it also continued to develop there too for I used to watch sudents working on this project in the period (1979-1983 ) when Ias doig a masters degree in design supervised by Davis Pratt. Tonia White ,a friend of mine , was in that class.
    It is quite touching to recall sush wonderful people and school.
    I wish to here more about all.
    Ali

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