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Sink or Swim: USFSP holds annual cardboard boat race


Video courtesy of Dylan May/Connect.

Photos courtesy of Emily Bowers/Connect.

It was smooth sailing Wednesday at the Cardboard Boat Race. Members of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP) community gathered outside Coquina Hall to watch students and faculty attempt to race their handmade boats around the bay.

The Harborside Activities Board (HAB) put on the event as part of the week-long homecoming celebration at USFSP. Food – catered by the Reef – was served at the Edge, and homecoming shirts were given out after attendees checked in.

Outside on the lawn, boats were lined up and proudly displayed. Students and faculty had the chance to check out the unique designs and then vote for their favorite. The theme for the event was Mario Kart, and although the boats did not have to follow the theme, many used it in their designs.

USFSP’s Financial Aid participated and designed their own boat. Shaped like a dragon, covered in black scales, and equipped with wings and a tail, their “Game of Loans” boat was one of the more elaborate creations. They started building it a week and a half before the race and used every item on the list of usable supplies.

“All you get is cardboard, duct tape, and trash bags. So you’d be sinking pretty quickly if you didn’t [use everything],” said Heather Willis, a staff member for Financial Aid. The theme was announced after they started their design, but they added a stuffed Mario in the dragon’s mouth to make it fit the theme. While Financial Aid was mostly there to win the decoration contest, they did have a plan for the race. They chose sophomore Angelica McCafferty to race in the boat because she was the lightest one in the office who also knew how to swim.

Once the students and faculty got the chance to see all the boats, and the judges could make their decisions on who would win the categories in the decoration contest, it was time to race. The designated racer of each team grabbed their boats and went to the edge of the bay, lining up and waiting to begin paddling. Once everyone was lined up and ready to go, they were off, and the crowd went wild.


While many boats never made it farther than a few feet off the shore, a few made it out and their captains paddled as if their lives depended on it. The fastest was Dean of Students Jake Diaz, who won the race by a landslide. Student Government came in second, with Financial Aid following closely in third.

After everyone was out of the water, and the congratulatory hugs were given out, it was time to announce the winners of the decoration contest. HAB was responsible for voting. To judge the boats, they focused on whether the theme was incorporated, if the boat looked like it would sink quickly, and if the teams put thought into the durability of their boats.

“We made sure we came to a conclusion so we could have a unison vote,” senior Taylor Singleton, one of the judges for the day, said. HAB’s boat was voted most likely to sink, Housing and Resident Life won homecoming spirit, Financial Aid won people’s choice, Dean of Students won best design, and Financial aid won most creative.


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