GROTON, Conn. - Sailors got ‘underway’ in fragile cardboard boats in North Lake at Naval Submarine Base New London (SUBASE) for a cardboard boat race put on by SUBASE’s Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) organization, Aug.23.
There were two teams participating this year: a father-son duo and a pair from SUBASE Port Operations. There were three parts to the regatta: a standard race around SUBASE’s own North Lake, followed by a ‘ship-to-ship’ water balloon battle, followed finally by a seaworthiness contest to see how many small children can pile inside each cardboard boat before it sinks.
"The first year we held the regatta, the winning team was a father and son and the boat was modeled after Jaws," said Marguerite Racuh, MWR representative and organizer of the event. "It was the son’s birthday, so that was quite a gift for him! We get the cardboard from the Commissary, which always has plenty to offer. We feel like this is a perfect sort of ‘last hurrah’ for the summer."
The father-son team consisted of Mike Robinson and his 10-year-old son Athrun, whose boat, the Water Dragon, featured a detailed dragon head and claws.
"This is our first time taking part in the regatta," said Robinson, an employee at General Dynamic Electric Boat. "We looked at some pictures from last year and thought, ‘we can do better.’"
After setting up their boats, the two teams pushed them into the water and were literally off to the races.
"Our boat’s name is OP3.2," said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Aaron Mason. "Anyone who works at Port Ops with us or on Lower Base will get it."
Mason and his friend and coworker, Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Cody White, designed their boat to be sturdy and hydrodynamic and adorned it with a mast proudly flying a black flag bearing the insignia of a popular pirate video game.
"We feel pretty confident," said White. "It took us two weeks—working off and on—to build our boat."
Almost immediately, OP3.2 gained a significant lead against the Water Dragon, with White and Mason paddling their boat much the way one would paddle a canoe or kayak. Despite the lead, not everything went perfectly for the two Sailors; as they paddled, White could be heard telling Mason, "Next year, let’s build a wider boat."
OP3.2 easily won the race portion of the regatta, but the Connecticut Family Robinson would get their turn in the sun during the water balloon fight: a hail of the aqua-filled-orbs rained down on Mason and White while they pulled their own from plastic bags hanging from each other’s backs. A few MWR employees on shore also joined in, throwing extras at the two boats.
By the time the last water balloon was thrown, Water Dragon and OP3.2 were matched one for one. The tie breaker would be which boat could hold more eager little children who, up to that point, had been watching from North Lake’s beach, without sinking. In the end, however, both boats topped out at eight kids without sinking. A ninth capsized the Water Dragon while children started falling off OP3.2 when trying to sit more on her.
As fate would have it, the two boats were evenly matched.
"It’s a draw!" exclaimed Rauch. "Both boats are unsinkable."
Robinson and Athrun pulled Water Dragon onto shore so they could pose for photos with it while the beach children took OP3.2 and played with it in the water. At this, White laughed and said, "MWR can keep it if they want—strap an anchor to it and make it part of the lake!"
Despite having fewer participants this year, a fun time was had by both participants and observers on a sunny day at SUBASE’s own North Lake. For information about entering for the 2019 Cardboard Regatta, contact SUBASE MWR at the Dealey Center Library or via Facebook.