Contestants wait for the start of the race at Drexel's 2017 Rec Recycle Regatta.
It takes a certain amount of resourcefulness, determination and, most of all, hope to build a boat using nothing but cardboard and duct tape in under an hour that can then carry the weight of two people across the Drexel Recreation Center’s 82-foot-long pool. The students-turned-sailors who fearlessly participated in the University’s 8th annual Rec Recycle Regatta demonstrated that particular skill set in spades — even if none of the resulting boats survived the perilous journey across the largest body of water on Drexel’s campus.
Still, the nine sea-faring Dragons who were all aboard to partake in this traditional event walked away from the competition Feb. 20 with a renewed respect for boat construction and, for one winning team, bragging rights as champions of one of the most unusual competitions offered at Drexel.
“It’s all I ever wanted. Seriously,” said Alexandra Jones, a fourth-year global studies major in the College of Arts and Sciences who was one-third of this year’s winning team. “I’ve wanted to put this on my résumé for a long time. We covered it for The Triangle [where Jones was editor-in-chief and is now a managing editor of Drexel’s independent student newspaper] and there was a shot of a guy paddling while his boat was nearly capsizing and his face was just insane. I knew at that moment I had to do this someday.”
Jones manned the Fubarge cardboard vessel along with Jen Bondarchuck, a third-year computer science major in the College of Computing and Informatics, as their third teammate, Nicolena Stiles, a junior computer engineering major in the College of Engineering, watched from the sidelines (only two participants were allowed in a boat). The boat went the farthest distance with the sailors afloat, making it about halfway across the pool before capsizing and disintegrating. Cardboard egg cartons that the team had put on the bottom of the boat ultimately broke off and sunk to the bottom of the pool, creating a makeshift watery grave of broken dreams and cardboard products.
“We thought that since they have pockets, they might be better for buoyancy,” said Stiles. But, just a few seconds in, the water proved otherwise.
“I’m not sure how the egg cartons really worked in our favor,” said Bondarchuck. “I think they weighed us down and fell off, and that’s probably what went wrong.”
The other team whose boat managed to go the distance opted for a different approach to boat construction, which didn’t work out as planned either. Team Pirate's Booty, composed of Jasper MacNoughton, a sophomore mathematics and economics major in the LeBow College of Business, and Alex Tweed, a sophomore electrical engineering major in the College of Engineering, was built around a large cardboard box taken from MacNoughton’s friend, who had ordered a heater. Problems arose as the students tried, and failed, to fit inside the box part of the boat.
"It didn’t go as we had planned,” said MacNoughton. “Big man Alex jumped in and sunk the boat.”
“We probably should have made an easier boat to get into, like a flatter boat,” admitted Tweed. “We couldn’t get in the boat, so that’s where we lost.”
The final team, sailing the Tofu Eater, came in with a secret advantage: one participant, Sam Haines, a sophomore biomedical engineer in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, competed in last year’s Rec Recycle Regatta. This year, she had new teammates, all from the College of Engineering: Liam Cummings, a sophomore chemical engineering major; Connor Sands, a senior electrical engineering major; and Ben Cohen, a pre-junior engineering technology major. But while last year’s cardboard schooner, also christened with the same name, survived the entire length of the pool, this year’s Tofu Eater barely made it a few feet.
“We pretty much knew the problems in the beginning,” said Haines. “The balance wasn’t there, we didn’t have enough supplies and there wasn’t going to be enough displacement. It wasn’t a surprise.”
No matter the results, all students navigated deep waters and treacherous tasks and recovered enough to tell the tale of how they survived the infamous event. Or, at the very least, they had an interesting answer if someone asked what they did over the weekend.
“I play some recreational sports, but just random stuff like this on a Saturday is pretty cool,” said MacNoughton. “Building a cardboard boat just sounded really fun."