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Cardboard boat race continues to build excitement for Coast Guard Festival

Becky Vargo • Jul 29, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Heroes and Legends was the theme of the annual Coast Guard Festival Cardboard Boat Race, but some of the heroes found their boats making a break for the launch instead of the seawall finish line Saturday afternoon.

Winds that caused red flag conditions and rip current warnings on nearby Lake Michigan also played havoc with the lightweight boats on the choppy Grand Haven channel.

Some boats had trouble getting around the halfway point buoy, while others, like the vessel from Coast Guard Station Grand Haven, just kept floating with the wind up the river

There was lots of competition for the Iceberg award (best sinking) – much to the delight of the crowd at the packed Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium - as many of the cardboard creations became waterlogged or tipped over at the start.

A highlight of the afternoon was the race between the People’s Choice “Dark Side” and the Price of the Fleet (Boat that most honors the Coast Guard) “Advance Packaging,” which was a to scale replica of a Coast Guard rigid hull inflatable boat.

Also a favorite with the crowd was a series of three races between the dads on “Red Green” and the sons on “Crystal Palace.”

The first race was neck and neck for a while. The second race involved a lot of splashing and the sinking of the Crystal Palace with all aboard. The Dark Side crew donated their virtually unsinkable vessel to the Crystal Palace crew for one more run at their parents, but the smaller vessel was too fast.

Red Green took the award for the fastest Cutter Crew.

The fastest vessels in the Buoy class (children) were Moby Dick (pairs) and The Nessy (crew). Knot Forseen was the fastest adult (Cutter) pair.

Advance Packaging’s Coast Guard boat replica took about 100 hours to build, starting in April, according to Kurt Buche. The hardest parts were getting the deck structurally sound enough to hold eight people, and making the curves of the orange hull.

The Boatswain’s Award for the best looking boat went to Ohana, a children’s entry crewed by sisters Emmalee, 13, and Anna, 11 Clow.

The girls, from Auburn Hills, were in town visiting their grandparents and cousins.

Ohana means family, Emmalee said.

Organizer Brandon Davis said the number of entries continues to slowly climb from the original eight in the inaugural race four years ago to almost 30 this year.

A Friday night build, held at the Coast Guard Festival office, yielded seven boats for the race, he said.

Advance Packaging hosted the event, which provided the cardboard, the template and the duct tape for people to make a basic boat.

Employees of the packaging firm also served as land crew at the race. Grand Haven Public Safety officers worked as rescue swimmers and Ottawa County Sheriff and the Coast Guard Auxiliary created a safety zones with their boats.

Davis said he was happy with the weather, despite the wind, and the competitor and crowd turnout.

“What’s great about it, it’s free and it’s centered around what the Coast Guard is all about, including water safety,” he said.

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