10 Strange and Wonderful Boat Races

The races are strange, but the title refers to the boats. With a little ingenuity, you can build a boat, loosely defined as a "flotation device," out of anything!

1. Beer Can Regatta

The Beer Can Regatta is an annual event at Mindil Beach organized by the Lions Club of Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. The participating boats are all made of beer or soda cans! The highlight of this year’s regatta, held Sunday, was the appearance of Extravacans, an enormous motor-powered boat constructed of 30,000 cans! A new category was created for the much bigger “superboat,” which it won as the only entry. In the main race, called The Battle of Mindil, the winner was The Flying Posties. There were other races and competitions in various categories. As you can see here, it is customary to slow down one’s competition by any means available. Photograph by Brad Fleet.

2. Homemade Watercraft Race

The New Paltz Regatta is for homemade boats of all kinds. This year's race took place on April 29th in New Paltz, New York. The annual event began in 1955 when it was launched by the the Delta Kappa Fraternity of SUNY (State University of New York). Now the race is open to anyone, and accompanies a downtown festival. The only rules are that the boats must be human-powered and homemade.

3. Minimal Regatta

The 21st Annual Schooner Wharf Bar Minimal Regatta was held in Key West over Memorial Day weekend. These boats are made of a sheet of plywood, a couple of 2x4s, and duct tape. A few other insignificant materials are allowed, but the results are always good for a laugh. Prizes were given for boats that won the race, boats that sank, creative designs, best costumes, and other categories. See pictures of the event.

4. Concrete Canoe Championship

SUN_0133

The building of canoes out of concrete began as a challenge for engineering students to design a boat to demonstrate the principles of physics. However, this exercise grew into an exercise in designing better materials; i.e. improving concrete. Intramural competitions began in the 1960s, which expanded to competitions between schools in the 1970s. The American Society of Civil Engineers sponsors a nationwide Concrete Canoe Competition. The winner of the 2012 championship was California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, for the third year in a row. Photograph by Flickr user Student Design and Experiential Learning Center.

5. Pumpkin Paddling

Damariscotta Pumpkinfest

Several communities stage autumn events in the sport of Pumpkin Paddling, in which you make a boat out of a giant pumpkin and race against other pumpkin boats. One of the biggest competitions is the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta in Damariscotta, Maine. The pumpkinfest has contests for growing, decorating, and carving pumpkins, but the regatta is the biggest draw. Watch a video to see how it’s done. Photograph by Flickr user Chiot’s Run.

6. Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race

Many years ago, Simon Thackray dreamed of floating down a river on a Yorkshire pudding. That eventually led to a 1999 event in which people built boats out of Yorkshire pudding. Now it's an annual event in Brawby, North Yorkshire, England, sponsored by The Shed. The boats are constructed of flour, water, and eggs, and given a good coat of shellac to make them fairly waterproof. Watch the boats in action in this news report.

7. Solar Splash World Championship

Teams from 15 schools competed in the Solar Splash World Championship race at George Wyth State Park in Waterloo, Iowa. Crossing the finish line first does not guarantee a win in this race: technical inspections, design, and craftsmanship are among the several parameters that count toward a win. The winning team came from Istanbul Technical University. See a promotional video about the event.

8. International Regatta of Bathtubs

La Regate des Baignoires (The International Regatta of Bathtubs) is held every August in Dinant, Belgium. The boats must contain a bathtub and no motor, but beyond that, creativity is the word. Prizes are awarded for "beauty, novelty, and representation of the town" as well as who manages to cross the finish line first. Photograph by Julien Dolhet.

9. Milk Carton Boats

The Milk, Bread, and Honey Festival is an end-of-August tradition in Jelgava, Latvia. One of the biggest events of the festival is the Milk Carton Boat Race, now in its tenth year. Last year, 36 human-powered boats made completely of milk cartons raced, and also competed for prizes in the most original and funniest crew competitions. The event aims to promote both dairy consumption and recycling.

10. Cardboard Boats

Card-Tiki 2010

The building of cardboard boats originated in 1962 at Southern Illinois University as an exercise in engineering design. The idea spread, and now many regattas are organized under the supervision of The Great Cardboard Boat Regatta. They'll even give you tips on building your own boat out of cardboard. The picture above is from a cardboard boat race in 2010 in Hollywood, Florida. Photograph by Flickr user Experiment 33.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
Do 'Close Door' Buttons in Elevators Actually Do Anything?
iStock
iStock

When you’re running late for work, one small comfort is finding an empty elevator waiting for you at your office building. You scurry inside, and since no one else is waiting to enter, you jab the 'close door' button. The doors comply, the elevator starts moving, and you breathe a sigh of relief.

This is a familiar scenario for many, but it’s also a big fat lie. That’s because most of the door-close buttons in U.S. elevators don’t actually work. In fact, they’re programmed that way.

But before you get ready to send off a strongly worded email to your office building’s elevator manufacturer, you may want to hear why this is the case. When the Americans With Disabilities Act was first passed in 1990, certain requirements for elevators were outlined, such as the installation of raised buttons, braille signs, and audible signals.

The act ensured that someone with a disability would have enough time to get inside, stipulating that elevator doors must remain fully open for at least three seconds and thereby preventing the button from cutting that time short. Some elevator manufacturers took it one step further by deactivating the button entirely.

Since the life span of an elevator is about 25 years and the Disabilities Act has been around for 28 years, it’s safe to assume that most of the elevators in operation today do not have a functioning 'close door' button, The New York Times reports. Only firefighters are able to close elevator doors manually through the use of a key.

It's important to note that there are exceptions to this rule, though. As the New York Daily News noted, New York City elevators are required by law to have working 'close door' buttons, even though some operate on a long delay (so long, in fact, that it calls the button's usefulness into question).

However, you’re in luck if you’re taking a lift (which, of course, is British for “elevator”). 'Close door' buttons are fully functional in most elevators in the UK, according to The Telegraph. A spokesman for the Lift and Escalator Industry Association told the newspaper that not all elevators have the button, but when they’re present, they do work. Again, the time it takes for the doors to shut after pressing the button varies from lift to lift.

While U.S. elevator manufacturers have a seemingly good reason for disabling the 'close door' button, some may question the point of propagating the myth and installing a button that serves no purpose in the first place. In response, some would argue that placebo buttons serve an important psychological function in society.

"Perceived control is very important," Harvard psychologist Ellen J. Langer told The New York Times. "It diminishes stress and promotes well-being."

That’s right: By believing that you’re in control of your fate—or at least how quickly you can make it up to the sixth floor—you’re better off. It doesn’t end with elevators, either. Buttons placed at city crosswalks are often disabled, and the thermostats in many office buildings are rigged so that the temperature can’t be altered (even if the numbers appear to change).

Some might swear up and down that elevator 'close door' buttons work, but this, too, could be your brain deceiving you. As author David McRaney wrote in an essay: “If you happen to find yourself pressing a nonfunctional close-door button, and later the doors close, you’ll probably never notice because a little spurt of happiness will cascade through your brain once you see what you believe is a response to your action. Your behavior was just reinforced. You will keep pressing the button in the future.”

According to The New Yorker, these buttons are designed to alleviate some of the subconscious anxiety that comes from stepping inside a tiny box that's hoisted up some 20 or 40 or 80 floors by a cable: “Elevator design is rooted in deception—to disguise not only the bare fact of the box hanging by ropes but also the tethering of tenants to a system over which they have no command."

So now you know: Next time you’re running late to work, take comfort in the fact that those few extra seconds you would’ve saved by pressing a functioning 'close door' button aren’t worth all that much in the long run.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
George Barratt-Jones, Vimeo
This Crafty Bicycle Can Knit a Scarf in 5 Minutes
George Barratt-Jones, Vimeo
George Barratt-Jones, Vimeo

Knitting can be a time-consuming, meticulous task, but it doesn’t need to be. At least not if you’re George Barratt-Jones. As The Morning News spotted, the Dutch designer recently created a human-powered automated knitting machine that can make a scarf while you wait for your train to arrive.

The Cyclo-Knitter is essentially a bicycle-powered loom. As you pedal a stationary bike, the spinning front wheel powers a knitting machine placed on top of a wooden tower. The freshly knitted fabric descends from the top of the tower as the machine works, lowering your brand-new scarf.

Cyclo Knitter by George Barratt-Jones from George Barratt-Jones on Vimeo.

“Imagine it’s the midst of winter,” Barratt-Jones, who founded an online skill-sharing platform called Kraftz, writes of the product on Imgur. “You are cold and bored waiting for your train at the station. This pedal powered machine gets you warm by moving, you are making something while you wait, and in the end, you are left with a free scarf!”

Seems like a pretty good use of your commute down-time, right?

If you're a fan of more traditional knitting methods, check out these knitting projects that can put your needles to work, no bicycle required.

[h/t The Morning News]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios