Sunday, April 20, 2008

Stab in the Dark

So, Saturday, April 19, 2008, was the 9th annual Rotary River Rally featuring the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta, aka the Cardboard Boat Race. Basically, people build boats out of cardboard, wood glue, duct tape, caulk, paint, and, in a one rare case, bricks (not part of the structure, but definitely a big part of the outcome of the race). You'd think that cardboard wouldn't make a good boat, but you'd be wrong. If you waterproof it right, it floats like a dream.

The boat we made was a catamaran, which is basically two canoes held together in the middle by some kind of center piece. It took many, MANY,
MANY man hours to complete this. I, and a couple of friends, were working on it Thursday night and finished working Friday at 9am. When I say we finished, I mean we stopped. The boat wasn't finished until that Saturday morning (we brought paint and caulk with us to the lake). It was designed and built by engineers and we all knew that it was going to stay strong.

That Thursday night/Friday morning, we made a caffeine run to good ol' Circle K at 4:30 in the morning, after having been painting for a couple of hours. There we were met by the cashier and someone we were pretty sure was high. He says, "I'm gonna take a stab in the dark. Were you guys painting?" Too tired to come back with a sarcastic remark followed by a "Here's your sign," we ignored him, bought our coffee, and left. It was good that we went. We left with caffeine (or as a friend calls it, Christian crack) and a name for the boat. Thank you, High Guy.

So, we go back on work on the Shot in the Dark, and then some of us leave. That Saturday we took her to the Lake, and waited to figure out when we'd be racing. While we waited, they made announcements, like what the awards were, including the Titanic Award, which would be awarded to the boat with the most spectacular sinking. I heard this and pointed to the boat next to us, which was made up of cardboard and duct tape; it wasn't even waterproofed. The man to whom the boat belonged promptly told me that it would float and finish the race. I didn't doubt that it'd float, but I wasn't expect it to survive very long.

So, we were racing in Heat 7, against other college boats. We and another ASU boat were exchanging the lead for a good chunk of the race. It wasn't until the second turn that things started to go wrong. I was filming and saw the boat tip, and immediately ran from where I was to get a better shot of what was happening. I go and see that the catamaran has split into two by the center piece. But the people manning the boat were troopers, and got back in, after flipping over, and paddled to the finish line.

There was a flaw in the boat that was overlooked in our sleeplessness. We would use bricks to hold pieces of cardboard together while the glue dried. We somehow forgot to take them off, and built around the bricks. This caused a heavy center piece, which proved very badly for the boat. We kissed the hope of using it again next year goodbye. Luckily, we were able to race again in the Collegiate Challenge as a canoe, which took some considerable patch work after the first failure.

As we were patching and painting, the guy who had assured me that his boat would finish came up to me and said, "You know how you thought my boat would win the Titanic Award? At least mine finished!" which was a lot kinder than laughing in my face. Basically, I got told, and I know that I deserved it.

So, anyway, we raced the canoe. Three of the original six got back into the boat, and decided that they didn't want to be that boat that flipped as soon as the race started, so they were going to paddle gently. As soon as the horn blew for the boats to take off, the boat flipped over. But we are a persistent group, and got back in, the water that got into the boat actually helping us to finish. Unfortunately, as we were taking the boat out of the water, it fell apart. All the hard work died to the lake. But it was still fun while it lasted.

Having the boat capsize twice and still finish both times assured us that we would not have a best time, but made us wish that there were a persistence award. We sat through the awards part, listening and pretty much agreeing with the prizes handed out. The Titanic award was the last to be announced, and we were too involved in resurrecting the boat to watch other boats sink. The Stab in the Dark stayed afloat both times it capsized, so we weren't expecting anything. So you imagine our joy and surprise when they announced the winner of the coveted Titanic Award to boat number 59. In hindsight, it was a perfect fit, considering that we thought the Stab in the Dark unsinkable and it split in half, just like the actual Titanic. The only thing it lacked was a love story amidst the tragedy.

So that was the life and death of the Stab in the Dark. It was great fun, minus the whole staying up for a couple of days thing. I'd definitely do it again, and encourage anybody else in the Phoenix area to participate as well.


Monkeylad said...

Persistence-Continuing in a course of action without regard to discouragement, opposition or previous failure