It was boxing's gentler side.
About 40 participants came Saturday to the second annual Columbia Great Cardboard Boat Regatta, bringing cardboard vessels shaped like upside-down Poseidon boats, automobiles, Loch Ness monsters and streamlined kayaks to race 200 yards of Lake Kittamaqundi. At least one entrant attempted to race in an abashedly plain cardboard box.
Races were separated by three classes: Class I for boats powered by canoe paddles, oars or kayak paddles; Class II, propelled by other forms of muscle-powered devices such as paddle wheels or propellers; and Class III boats designed and built by spectators-turned-participants using a kit supplied by the regatta. All of the boats were made using corrugated cardboard and ranged in cash outlay from $50 to $200.
It was the second year for Tom Corner's Dove of Peace, which took last year's Vogue Award for prettiest boat. The Dove, which was sponsored by the Howard County Coalition for Peace and Justice and the Howard County Friends of Central America, was making its second cruise in this year's race. Corner and 13 volunteers from the peace groups caulked the cardboard's corrugated grooves and gave it two coats each of pool paint and polyurethane. "We're not going to sink," vowed Corner. Corner's boat came in third in the Class II contest behind Hammond High School's physics class and the Glenelg Country School.
But the sinkings were clearly the crowd pleasers. The first to go down was a boat built by Dabbs Chiropractic Wellness -- a red and white canoe that unintentionally resembled a french fry carton. "I could hear everyone cheering," said captain Vaughn Dabbs.
Dabbs' craft was designed originally to be a kayak, but turned into a canoe. "The shape was wrong," said Dabbs. "It was too high and narrow. And if you build it wrong, you go down."
The Columbia Bank's green shark sank at the starting line, a victim of a too-high center of gravity. But others, like Atholton High School's planned-for-doom Titanic went to the middle of the lake before breaking apart in a shower of cardboard and strategically smoking dry ice. A one-boat "Coast Guard" helped the survivors to shore and dragged the lake for boat carcasses. Atholton received the aptly named Titanic Award for the most spectacular sinking.
Not all disasters were waterlogged. Some of the Class II boats merely died in the water, their paddle wheels useless with foot power, some with stripped gears. A little Yankee ingenuity and ++ brute arm force eventually powered some of the boats around the course, but some were towed in.
Many of the boats, like Dabbs' and James Ferry Photography's, were an office staff effort, and not everyone was willing to go down with the ship.
"If we make it halfway to the first buoy, we'll be proud," said Shawn Ferry, who helped designed the camera-shaped boat, named the All-Nighter for its three-day construction. Crew member Susie Vaeth eyed the front-heavy lens dubiously. "If [the lens] starts to go, we're cutting it loose," she said.
Some of the boat designs were half Halloween costume and half Homecoming floats, with entrants aiming to outdo past show-stoppers like last year's "Exxon Valdez," which floated to the front of the lake and then dumped black plastic oil "spills." This year's Pride of the Regatta went to a Loch Ness monster ringer, the Kitt Qundi Monster, sponsored by the Christ Memorial Presbyterian Pioneers, while the Vogue Award went to Howard County Leadership's "People -- The Gift of Columbia" craft, which was a gift box filled with gilt-covered People Tree cutouts. Even the Team Award went to a glamour boat -- a red car built by Clarksville Middle School.
Class III boats were constructed on the spot using a "Secret Kit" of cardboard, plastic and duct tape. The first-place finisher, the USS Watermark, became a dugout canoe with a duct tape face resembling a turtle's head.
A white catamaran-shape with a 3-D snowflake on top helped the Columbia Ski Club take this year's People's Choice Award. The craft was designed on a computer by club member Howard Tillison.
"Last year we came in third overall," Tillison said. "But we lost to two kayaks."
Kayaks and canoes had the advantage this year, too, taking the two top awards in Class I with Steve White's Warp Drive and Citizens Bank of Maryland's CBM Stealth Bumblebee.
Vessels that weren't Dumpster-bound were carted off to assess for future improvements.