Boatbuilding For Charity

Boatbuilding for Charity

In the world’s weirdest boat race, not everyone makes it to the finish line.

By Eileen Mansfield — August 2003

Ed Boebeker, a judge, and Nancy Hobbs, the syndicate coordinator, with their dogs.

While in Annapolis recently, I stumbled upon one of the strangest nautical contests I’ve ever seen. It was the Annapolis Yacht Club’s Build-a-Boat Challenge, an annual two-day event organized by AYC to honor its anniversary. Teams of contestants had to build a boat using just two sheets of 1/4-inch plywood, six 2'x2' boards, and unlimited amounts of Sikaflex (a marine adhesive/sealant manufacturer, and the event’s sponsor).

The SeaBees team works on its hull.

The 20 teams had five hours to build their craft, and no power tools were allowed, although apparently the rules are pretty lax, since I could barely talk to one contestant over the buzz of electric drills and saws. Judges did give out “tickets” for peculiar violations like “too many observers.” I didn’t see any tickets issued for excessive beer drinking, which was probably because they would have run out of paper.

Peter Howard and Jen Richards from Hinckley in front of their, boat.

One group that received its fair share of tickets was the Hinckley team. According to teammate Jen Richards, this was their first year in the contest, but definitely not the last. Although their craft looked pretty solid, I can’t say I saw much resemblance to the classic picnic boat style that Hinckley is famous for. I’d say it looked more like an old, wooden bathtub.

At the end of the day each team won an award. Categories ranged from the serious (Best Design, Most Artistic) to the silly (Best Dressed Team, Ugly Duckling Boat). My favorite was Most Corrupt, given to the team that bribed and spoiled the judges the most.

Rumor had it that the Hinckley team was in the running for the Ugly Ducking Award, although they seemed more interested in winning Most Corrupt, with a sign offering judges Picnic Boats for half price. If I hadn’t known it was a joke, I might have signed up to be a judge right then and there. Although maybe I should have, considering how much fun everyone was having.

Hinckley’s boat during the race. It turned out to be a floater, not a sinker!

The event took place on Saturday and the winner was determined during a race across Spa Creek on Sunday afternoon. Each craft held up to four passengers and was powered by oar or sail. Bricks were added for each violation a team had received the day before.

Each team had chosen a charity prior to the event. The first- and second-place winners’ charities received 50 percent of the winnings with the other teams’ charities split the remainder of the prize money.

Although three boats sank, enough boats finished the race to determine the winners. Click here to see the winners.

This article originally appeared in the July 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.