Cardboard boat races coming Aug. 31

Rick Carpenter remembers quite a few standouts since starting the Pioneer Days Cardboard Boat races.

“One year there was a cardboard Lamborghini operated by two men from Port Charlotte,” Carpenter said. “They called it the Lam-boatghini. I’ve also seen a cardboard dragster and a floating tiki bar.”

Neither the Lam-boat-ghini nor the cardboard dragster won their races, but Carpenter, or Capt. Rick as he’s also known, acknowledges creativity and dedication in the form of the Captain’s Choice Award.

“The criteria I look for in the Captain’s Choice are boat design and crew enthusiasm,” he said.

The theme of this year’s Pioneer Days Cardboard Boat race is “Englewood goes Hollywood.” The race will be at 9 a.m. on Aug. 31 at Indian Mound Park, Englewood.

Another reward unique to the boat races is the Titanic Award for best sinking.

“It’s always a fun morning,” Carpenter said. “I look forward to the sinking boats. In the first couple of years, there was a cardboard barge, which was 4 foot by 8 foot, had a family of six on it. They made it halfway through before it sank. There was another who built a single kayak that folded in half after making it three-quarters of the way through.”

Realtor Bart Tracy, who organizes the races, remembered the 20-foot pirate boat from the Faull Inn in Englewood that carried six people.

“If you want to build a competitive boat you’re going to spend a lot of time watching paint dry,” Tracy said. “It’s not as hard to build a cardboard boat as people think it is.”

There are three different boats: box, barge and kayak.

“Easiest you can make is the box,” Tracy said. “You use latex, paper towels and paint to have the waterproof finish. The barge is similar sized to the box. You can build one, for example, from 15 liquor boxes and contact cement, which is a wonder material. You can also use duct tape or cellophane.”

Tracy said most of the winning entries are kayaks and two-person operations.

“Two people typically paddle faster than one,” he said.

The races are divided into three divisions: Prams for ages 10 and under, Sunfish for 11-15, and World Cup for 16 and over. To qualify for the trophy run, boats must compete in one-on-one elimination heats. The trophy run consists of all the heat winners. Entry is free for the Prams division, $20 for Sunfish and $25 for World Cup. General admission is free for the event. First three places in each division will win a trophy as well as the Captain’s Choice and Titanic Awards. A second chance trophy will also be awarded for the remaining boats for a total of 16 trophies.

“I’m just looking forward to seeing the boats out there and having a good time,” Carpenter said. “We look forward to seeing as many boats out there as possible.”

Between boat races, there will be standup paddleboarding Paddlepalooza where five contestants at a time race through a 100-yard paddleboard race. Entry is $5 and the winner is awarded a silver medallion, according to a press release.

For more information, visit


About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News,, and Tampa Tribune.
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