Riverhead set to launch first cardboard boat race

06/24/2010 12:00 AM |

Councilman George Gabrielsen and his daughter Kristina paint “The Viking,” Mr. Gabrielsen’s entry in the cardboard boat race.

Riverhead will be playing host to a regatta on the Peconic River this weekend, though most boats are expected to flood or capsize and the ones that make it will most likely be thrown out following the race.

That’s because they’ll be made of paper.

The Riverhead Business Improvement District is sponsoring the town’s first cardboard boat race Sunday. The festivities kick off at 10 a.m.

The rules are simple. All boats must be made using only cardboard, duct tape and paint, but plastic or wooden oars are allowed. All boats must have a name and all participants must wear a life jacket. Other than that, anything goes.

A quick search for cardboard boat races on Youtube.com yields videos of everything from cardboard canoes to corrugated kayaks to Viking ships made out of refrigerator boxes.

Contestants will enter the river via a floating dock behind the East End Arts Council headquarters. They will have to row to a predetermined point and back, as quickly as possible.

There will be no monetary awards for crossing the finish line first — the most coveted prize Sunday will most definitely be bragging rights — But the first-, second- and third-place winners in the 15-and-under category, the single-boater category and the “anything goes” category will be awarded trophies. Awards will also be handed out for the prettiest, ugliest and most creative boat, among other categories.

There will be live music, face painting and free popcorn, said Ed Densieski, a former Town Board member who came up with the idea for the race. There is no fee to attend the event. “We’re trying to make it as easy, fun and simple as we can,” Mr. Densieski said, adding that he abided by the motto KISS — keep it simple, stupid.

Kevin Zaneski, who, along with Mr. Densieski, sits on the race committee, said organizers are hoping the event will bring some foot traffic to the riverfront.

“You can’t just sit on the sidelines and complain,” he said of the blighted downtown.

Riverhead Town Board member George Gabrielsen, who also helped organize the event, said judges will include Town Board members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio, Deputy Town Supervisor Jill Lewis, Mr. Gabrielsen’s daughter, Kristina, and the councilman’s brother, Carl Gabrielsen.

George Gabrielsen said he’s planning to sail down the Peconic River in his boat, “The Viking” with Town Supervisor Sean Walter. He said he was inspired to enter the race because his family, who claims Viking roots, were Scandinavian ship builders.

He said he will not test out his boat, which sits atop two duct-tape-covered cardboard pontoons, until race day, but he’s confident his vessel