The fast, the furious, the cardboard boat regatta

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Benjamin Kim
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Celebrating America's independence is often a day saturated with displays of luminous explosions reminiscent of the historic battle which inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner" with its "rocket's red glare" and "bombs bursting in air."

However, at Hurlburt Field, people gazed, not up high, but to the calm waters awaiting "a perilous fight" to unfold during the 24th Annual Cardboard Boat Regatta at the Hurlburt Field Marina June 29.

Fifteen boats from various squadrons competed in aquatic vessels constructed from nothing but cardboard, duct tape and paint as part of a seafaring tradition. The regatta would not be complete without miscellaneous accolades of the "Most Unique boat," "Best Dressed Krewe," and the "Ugliest" boat.

Crews lined the boats on the sandy beach shore, boasting their designs and costumes while anxiously waiting for the race to start. These boats ranged from comical to expertly crafted works of nautical engineering.

Several boats gave nods to their roots such as USS Tiger Kitty from 413th Flight Test Squadron featuring an inanimate black cat at the prow of a cardboard boat that may have seen better days. On the other side of the spectrum was the Gator Bite from 801st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, boasting a 25 feet long alligator design with menacing teeth and an intimidating tail.

Former champions and competition favorites, 1st Special Operations Equipment Maintenance Squadron showed off Sun Drop, a 12-man boat painted green and yellow in a soda-bottle shape sporting cup holders.

As the countdown began, a false start created a domino effect down the line as teams furiously carried their boats to the water. Chaos ensued shortly after the start and saw Noah's Dinghy from 1st Special Operations Dental Squadron sinking immediately despite creative attempts to equip themselves with SCUBA gear. The Wicked Clam from 1st Special Operations Maintenance Operations Squadron found itself spinning in circles, unable to acquire directional bearing.

The Scotsmen from 1st Special Operations Component Maintenance Squadron found itself in the middle of the pack but when the boat began to lose forward momentum, crewmembers resorted to launching toy projectiles at other boats. Distinct battle cries could be heard arising from their craft.

However, the boats were simply unable to match the speed and sheer manpower of Sun Drop, who started quickly and led throughout the race. During the only turn around a buoy, Sun Drop struggled with its wide body and momentary lack of communication, giving an opening for Rum Runner from 1st Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron to potentially take the lead.

But as Sun Drop made their turn, Rum Runner simply could not overcome the speed of the fearsome bottle-shaped boat as the defending champions cruised to an easy victory for yet another title.

Rum Runner came in second as Redneck "Yot" Club from 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron was close on its heels taking third place.

"We had the moves, just like the commercial," said Maj. Ronald Kolodziejczyk, commander of 1st SOEMS. "We've got the moves, we had to prove it on the water, and we did."

Gator Bite claimed to win the "Most Unique" boat for their detailed alligator design that was actually a fa├žade that unveiled a sleek watercraft prior to the start of the race.

"We got what we set out for: making our squadron proud," said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Bagley, 801st SOAMXS and Gator Bite crewmember. "We couldn't have done it without everyone here."

In addition to coming in third, Redneck "Yot" Club took "Ugliest" for boat design. The Wicked Clam sailed off with "Best Dressed Krewe" for their elaborate pirate costumes.

The continual success of the 1st SOEMS cannot be questioned. No, really.

"That is top secret information," Kolodziejczk said, with a laugh. "We did not use anything unapproved on the list, anything performance-enhancing at all.

The Cardboard Boat Regatta provided smiles, laughter and cheers of glee as a crescendo to an event truly resonated with the sound of America's independence.

"I'll tell you what -- another great boat regatta," said Col. Jim Slife, commander of 1st Special Operations Wing. "Some were works of art, and some were works of engineering -- but not many were both, honestly."