Build-a-Boat Challenge

The 2003 annual Annapolis Yacht Club/Sikaflex Build-A-Boat Challenge brings a new dimension to the event designated the most exuberant and playful tradition of the summer.

Seven years ago, boaters in Annapolis were challenged by a competition for someone to design, build and race his or her own craft. How many among the water rats in Annapolis had dreamed of their names in headlines as the owners of a boat building and racing syndicate?

What's the rub? What were the details in the contract? To start, the owner and his/her crew had to build the boat in only four hours, paint and decorate the craft, launch and be ready to race on day two at approximately midday. Minimal materials would be supplied: wood, wire and Sika-flex, the brand name for the marine adhesive that would hold the boat together. Builders would receive limited tools, and any additional tools brought in by the teams had to be left inside the boat during the race.

This eccentric idea was brought to Annapolis in 1996 by AYC member Alice Neily Mutch after she had witnessed a riotous event with the same parameters in Newport, R.I. To add to the demands, eminent sailing referees of the Annapolis Yacht Club would judge participants by design, building speed, neatness and deportment. In addition, there were criteria for team spirit, creativity in design and team uniforms, as well as craft floatability and maneuverability in the water. The course was laid out in Spa Creek in front of AYC and in full view from Spa Creek Bridge. The officials promised rescue boats to save the builders from their own skills.

Trophies were promised, too, with the Rub-A-Dub Cup as the highest award. The first race was tagged the "First Annual Quick and Dirty Boat Building and Racing Challenge." Alice organized the first event with the able assistance of Bob Moore, Harry Jones, Dee Murray and dozens of other volunteers.

Annapolis and its guests watched on a Saturday when builders representing 16 owner- syndicates arrived to a sparsely populated parking lot at AYC's clubhouse where 16 spaces were divided and decorated with plywood, drop cloths, a few tools and tubes of Sikaflex. Builders displayed syndicate and team names. Uniforms were nonentities. Beer-soaked napkins revealed boat designs. Coffee soaked T-shirts robed judges. The shotgun rocketed, signaling the start of building---day one.

Four hours later, when the shotgun marked the end of the building phase, the authorities had awarded infractions for attempts to bribe judges, for untidiness and for celebratory procrastination. Heat-crazed builders weighed their boats, hydrated, and hastily painted and decorated them before the unusual looking craft were chained for the night.

The next day, Sunday, brought crowds of onlookers to the porches of the clubhouse and the Spa Creek Bridge to witness ungainly launchings, unfortunate founderings and unwarranted sabotage. The audience lustily cheered heats and races to the finish when a few boats actually followed the course and established a winner. Later that day, when AYC celebrated its 110th birthday, each syndicate captured a prize and the weary crew retreated to recover from high spirits and high jinks.

For the next six years, the competition continued, escalating in zaniness. Antics included exotic refreshments at syndicate sites, sun-protecting awnings, high-tech tools, naval architecture designs, haute couture and boatyard costumes, gourmet food, band music and Mafia-level bribery. Quirky boat designs included outriggers, pumpers, submersibles, balloon types and hidden sources of propulsion. The celebrations became more holiday-like and trophies more creative.

This year, the revelry scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, June 21 and 22, the 8th annual AYC/Sikaflex Build-A-Boat Challenge is once again dubbed "Quick and Dirty." The new dimension is the addition of a one-design sailboat class.

John Groth, chairman of the 2003 wacky tradition, has offered the syndicates not only the boat building materials, but also the bare minimum to construct the rigging, spars and sails. "We've been wowing the crowds with rowboat competitions for seven years," he says, "and now we're going to see if some of the competitors can build a sailboat in five hours and compete in a one-design class."

Groth notes that Garth Hichens, president of Annapolis Yacht Sales, will donate masts, booms, rigging and directions to wannabes in the international sailboat world. He also reports that 20 syndicates had signed up for this year's tomfoolery and half had indicated an interest in the sailing component. The rowboats and sailboats will all have a five-hour time limit to complete their boats. Last year the building site was moved to the yacht club annex across Spa Creek and will again be there. The races will commence in Spa Creek in full view from the Spa Creek Bridge at 1:17 p.m., reflecting the 117th birthday of the Annapolis Yacht Club.

Never have so few used so little to accomplish almost nothing. Let the games begin!

Patricia Barry, a Pisces who resides on Mill Creek, has been a water and food buff for three decades.


What event in the Annapolis area are you most looking forward to in 2006?

Powerboat Show
Sailboat Show
Renaissance Festival
Seafood Festival
County Fair

Additional comments ?

Last time we asked, "How many past issues of Inside Annapolis Magazine do you have? " Out of all the responses, we found that most of our readers keep at least 3 issues of Inside Annapolis Magazine around the house, but a couple of our readers have over several years of issues! We're glad to hear that so many of you stay with us!

Thanks to all those that voted!

Results Posted Every Issue!!

Backyard Publications, LLC. ©2004. 433 Fourth St, Annapolis, MD 21403 - Phone 410-263-6300 - Fax 410-267-8668