Cardboard boat race provides expected thrills and spills

Becky Vargo • Jul 30, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Twenty-three cardboard boats and their sailors provided the anticipated thrills and spills in the third annual Coast Guard Festival Cardboard Boat Race Saturday afternoon.

Some sailors had trouble in the strong breeze and current on the triangular course, while others barely made it off the dock before sinking.

Missing was the usual rivalry between Coast Guard crews and city police, but there was plenty of excitement with a full crowd in the Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium cheering on the boaters as some of them struggled to get to the finish line.

All of the boats - which included three more entries than last year were on display in front of the stadium terraces before the races.

The Dolphin Helicopter 8675309 won the People’s Choice Award and the Pride of the Fleet Award.

But the 5-person crew had to remove the top of the cab, including the blades, to be able to paddle on the Grand Haven channel. The crew included Peter Haines, Larry Taylor, Patrick Robey, Nathan Huddleston and Bobby Huddleston.

Rahina Tiki, a Buoy Class entry crewed by Rosie Dervartanian, 12, and Mya Phares, 13, took the Boatswain Award (most attractive vessel).

Fastest on the water in the Buoy Class (children) category was Wyatt Boersen, 12, and his cousin, Briana Boersen, 11, in a Sheriff Boat.

The “Jack Splatt” took race honors in the Cutter Class Pair (adult). The boat was piloted by Jack Scheffers and Lisa Stuart, both of Kalamazoo.

Taking the top spot in Cutter Crew was the Bentline Express. The Riverboat - complete with a big red paddle wheel - beat out the Dolphin Helicopter by just a couple feet, after changing leads along the course.

One of the most “coveted” awards, the Iceberg Award, goes to the vessel with the best sinking.

A group of footballers, calling themselves the Crystal Palace Football Club, provided some of the best sinking entertainment for the crowd.

The crew consisted of Mackenna Senti, Derek Braak, Johnny Miller, Chris Clark and Joel Fullmer.

Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol, along with Coast Guard Festival volunteers, used boats to create a safety zone for the racers.

Area residents agreed that there were a lot of boats going through the channel, even for Coast Guard Festival week.

Safety swimmers from the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety kept an eye on the boaters and also removed sunken ships from the water.

“I think it was another great year,” said organizer Brandon Davis. He noted that the new stadium worked great and a lot more people were able to see the races.

“Absolutely,” the race will be back next year, Davis said. “It will be an annual event, weather dependent.”

Scott Kloss, marketing coordinator for sponsor Advanced Packaging of Grand Rapids and a participator on the Bentline Express, said his company decided to sponsor the event after they had such a great time participating last year.

“We brought the whole team,” Kloss said. 

The riverboat idea came from one of the company’s designers, Kyle Vincek, he said.

A pre-build workshop held Friday night in the parking lot at the Coast Guard Festival Office yielded three boats for the race.

Davis said they hoped to promote the event more next year to generate more interest.

“We’re hoping for 30 boats next year,” he said of the race.

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