Single Contestant in Rec Recycle Regatta Gives Impressive Showing

Samantha Haines and Riki McDaniel in their cardboard boat, the Tofu Eater
Samantha Haines and Riki McDaniel in their winning cardboard craft, the Tofu Eater

Just one team showed up to compete in the 7th annual Rec Recycle Regatta held Februrary 21, but quality should count for something. After all, this is a boat race where the competitors fashion water-worthy boats out of nothing more than duct tape and cardboard. What’s that old sailor saying?

"When you're building a boat out of cardboard, you're not racing the others; you're racing the sea."

Pretty sure that’s how that saying goes.

Freshmen from the College of Engineering Riki McDaniel and Samantha Haines were the sole crew to show up to ford the DAC pool in a makeshift cardboard craft. Both admitted to never having built a boat before, but forged ahead regardless, with the confidence only engineering students can muster. Haines seemed to know the most about water displacement, while McDaniel professed to be a "materials guy."

 "The corregation of the cardboard makes it...floatier," Haines said. "That's a technical term."

According to the Recycle Regatta official rules, the cardboard boats cannot be covered with duct tape or plastic. The exposed surface must be primarily cardboard. Which, as you might imagine, is a problematic shipbuilding substance.

 "We were going to do a rudder, but we thought it might run us off course when it got soggy," said Haines.

Their boat, the Tofu Eater, had two design strengths that Haines and McDaniel were particularly proud of. First, the Tofu Eater’s bow was painstakingly curved, with layers of cardboard folded on top of one another. Secondly, a triangular tube of cardboard ran the length of the deck, reinforcing the area where the crew would be sitting — an unorthodox tactic, but it’s a boat built out of cardboard and duct tape.

Perhaps it was for the best that no one arrived to challenge the Tofu Eater. Past Rec Recycle Regattas have had boats fold in two or be extremely difficult to properly move forward. The Tofu Eater’s construction avoided those primary pratfalls, so it would have been a tough ship to beat. 

"The Tofu Eater scared off the competition," McDaniel said, partway through the building.

Haines did not share her crewmate’s optimistic outlook. “We’re going to end up swimming,” she said over and over, as she shook her head in dismay at the task of building a sea-worthy vessel out of water-soluble material.

Even at their ship’s launch, Haines did not appear hopeful that their stalwart craft would hold the two of them afloat. McDaniel, acknowledging the solemnity of the occasion, donned one of Haines’s bikini tops.

In the end, Haines’s pessimism was misplaced. The Tofu Eater not only kept them dry the entire length of the pool, it did so in record time! It was only when it was clear that the boat was unable to turn around — this is the problem with not including a rudder — that the Tofu Eater was allowed to gracefully capsize.

Truly, a fairer ship ne'er sailed o'er unstorm'd seas.