Last week we had our October pack meeting. As you can surmise from the title, our program consisted of running a Raingutter Regatta. The regatta is one of three “derbies” that packs can present (the other two being the Space Derby and the ever popular Pinewood Derby).
We have a Pinewood Derby every year due to its popularity with our pack and to also allow the top den winners advance to the annual district derby. For the other two, we have them in alternating years so that if a boy joins as a Tiger, he’d have the opportunity to participate in at least two Regattas and two Space derbies.
We have found that (or have created) the Regatta is a low maintenance event. Allow me to explain…
The Pinewood or Space derbies require advance preparation of the vehicle (unless a boy races the rolling or flying “brick”). The wood needs to be (should be) cut, sanded, painted, weighed, balanced, lubed up (axles or rubber bands), etc. While the Regatta boats can certainly be prepped in advance of race day as each boy chooses, we use the “one night only” method. We have the boys use markers (making sure they are waterproof, such as a Sharpie) to decorate the boat itself and sail. Then a leader or parent, manning a hot glue gun, helps the boys attach the keel and rudder.
When we do a Regatta, we change our meeting order and agenda slightly and actually use the “Gathering” to let the boys start on their boats. We allow everyone to complete their boat before we start the actual meeting with our opening ceremony. That way the glue can dry/harden and everyone’s boat is ready to go when race time comes. We then proceed with the business of the pack meeting (skits/songs, announcements, awards, advancements) then get to the races.
We randomly pair the boys up in a single elimination bracket — “March Madness” style and call out each pair of boys when it is their turn to race. We learned from our last Regatta that when the boat tipped or ran against the edge, most boys in “readying their ship” also pushed it along with their hands. This yea to eliminate this temptation and possible advantage, we tied the boys hands behind their backs with their neckerchiefs. Eliminating a possible advantage is also the same reason we chose not to have them provide the wind power through a straw since they might use it to push the boat and get ahead. To care for tipped boats, we had a leader assigned to each gutter to help straighten them out. The winners move on in the bracket, the losers (since they are out) go get a consolation prize. This year it was candy bars.
The boys (even those eliminated) really got into cheering each other on and despite a few boys who were disappointed in their result, everyone showed good sportsmanship. All in, the meeting took about 90 minutes counting from first starting the boats in the Gathering until the closing ceremony.
A few tips/tricks:
- Prepare a number of blank pre-printed brackets that will accommodate the number of boys you expect to have. We have always done “single elimination” because of time. Double elimination gives the boys ousted in the first race of the first round a chance still to win it all, but will take longer with almost twice as many races.
- Unless you are having your Regatta outside, have a shop-vac handy to take care of the water when you are finished. Ten foot gutters get heavy and are difficult to manage when filled with water. I learned this trick for our last Regatta and it save so much time with clean up and prevented lots of spilled water.
- Consider having your gutters in some type of wooden case or frame. Aluminum gutters tend to twist easily. Having the frame provides significant stability during the hectic nature of races and also for transporting them.
- Make sure the gutter ends are sealed for leaks. Painters caulk works fine.
- Announce the rules and how the winner will be determined in advance. Once we had a very close race where one boy tipped his boat forward right at the end and the mast (rather than the front tip of the boat) touched the end before the other boy’s boat did. They ended up racing again, but created the “Upright Rule” — the winning boat must be in an upright position and touch first to be the winner.
Of the three derbies, the Raingutter Regatta is, in my opinion, the least stressful of the derbies for all involved and one I enjoy the most. Lung power and the strategic placement of the “wind” against the sail can be a great equalizer. Tigers can beat second year Webelos; being short is sometimes better than being tall. Slow, low and steady generally wins the race. If you are looking for a fun activity that will occupy much of a pack meeting, the Raingutter regatta may be one to use.