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posted: 6/29/2012 6:00 AM

Whether boats sink or float, Lake Ellyn Cardboard Regatta will be a spectacle

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  • Boaters have reason to celebrate if they complete the 200-yard course in the Glen Ellyn Cardboard Boat Regatta, which returns to Lake Ellyn Saturday, June 30.

      Boaters have reason to celebrate if they complete the 200-yard course in the Glen Ellyn Cardboard Boat Regatta, which returns to Lake Ellyn Saturday, June 30.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • Even going down with the ship can be a good time. An award goes to a crew that sinks with style and grace.

      Even going down with the ship can be a good time. An award goes to a crew that sinks with style and grace.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • Video: Check out the boats

  • Video: See Team Mario Kart row

 
 

When you're competing in a boat race, the obvious goal is making it back to shore safely and, ideally, in first place.

But for some sailors in the Lake Ellyn Cardboard Regatta, sinking is not only a goal, it's celebrated.

Last year, a group of judges -- Glen Ellyn Park District staff members and volunteers -- awarded the SS Saturation for the best display of sinking. The award for sinking usually honors how "gracefully" sailors succumb to Lake Ellyn's waters, says Jeannie Robinson, a park district recreation supervisor.

The annual event returns at noon Saturday, June 30, at Lake Ellyn Park, 645 Lenox Road, Glen Ellyn. More than 30 entries are expected to compete on -- and possibly in and under -- a 200-yard course.

In a previous race, she recalled one crew built a vessel boasting a replica of the Empire State Building. Naturally, one sailor donned a gorilla costume and attempted to scale it like King Kong. The tower completely collapsed in the water, Robinson said.

"It's not always function but aesthetics that people are going for," she said.

The regatta rules are straight-forward: crews must build boats out of corrugated cardboard and use paddles or oars to propel their vessel. The fastest boat in each heat wins the first-place award.

In the spirit of fair competition, sailors are divided into three categories and subcategories of youths and adults. The "legends" are sailors with five or more years of building experience; the "yachtsmen" have less than five years of experience; and the "schooners" are first-timers.

The park district also has offered a boat-building seminar with insider tips from previous winners.

"They obviously don't give away all their secrets," Robinson said.

Despite the limited materials, past entries' designs have included anything and everything right up to a roughly 12-foot-tall Energizer bunny, Robinson said.

That ingenuity appeals to Ed Klemm, the play-by-play announcer for the race. You can spot Klemm, nicknamed "Skipper," wearing a nautical-themed hat.

For about 90 minutes before the race, Klemm methodically prepares by interviewing crews and learning the back stories of each boat -- some engineered months in advance or others just in the days leading up to the regatta.

"I kind of do like a roving reporter and really get to talk to people," said Klemm, whose day job is as a speech teacher at Wheaton North High School.

Saturday's event will mark Klemm's third year as announcer.

"I think there's some excitement or wonderment in 'Is this thing going to float?'" Klemm said. "'Is it going to make it around the course?'"

Whether boats sink, finish or win, the regatta's an entertaining, family-friendly event for crowds perched along Lake Ellyn's shore, Klemm said.

"Bottom line, it's fun," he said.

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