With a sizable lead in the first heat of the kids division at Saturday's 13th Annual Labor Day Cardboard Boat Race at Wauconda's Bangs Lake, 11-year-old Bianca Hochlewtner and 10-year-old Izzy Crowley spectacularly capsized.
"We were paddling and the boat started rocking back and forth and then that's when the water started coming in," Hochlewtner explained. "Then we sunk."
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A week's worth of work for the Chicago girls had been reduced to a mushy, sticky pile of wet pulp and duct tape. But the girls day was not over.
"Just because you may not have finished doesn't mean you lost," explained Laurie Barth, owner of Lindy's Landing, the restaurant that sponsors and coordinates the yearly regatta. "Besides whoever won, we have prizes for best sinking, best dressed, team spirit and best design."
Mark Sloma and his three shipmates, who paddled a Miami Vice-themed dinghy to victory in the business category, were also vying for a shot at the best-dressed award and the $50 gift certificate that comes with it. The men were all decked out in matching white suits and flip flops with solid-colored T-shirts, a la Crockett and Tubbs. They all work together at POS Remarketing Group in Wauconda and were competing for the third time Saturday.
"This was three years in the making," Sloma of Libertyville said of the victory. "We had no idea if it would even float with all four of us in there. We couldn't practice. We just had to hope the 15 rolls of Gorilla Tape was enough."
In all, roughly 20 vessels set sail from the shores of Bangs Lake Saturday. Most didn't make it back in the same condition.
"I was rooting for the No. 12 boat," said Michele Whitehead of Wauconda. "But it just sank. They're friends of my granddaughter and they really put their heart in it. But it's still so fun to watch. We come every year. Some of these boats are really amazing. Sometimes the fancy ones sink first."
The $30 entry fee paid by the sailors goes to the Bangs Lake Advisory Committee that oversees maintenance and care of the lake, Barth said.
"But really it's just a fun way to kick off Labor Day weekend," she said.