GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — The cardboard boat race is one of the first events kicking off the Coast Guard Festival in Grand Haven Saturday, July 27 at 1:30 p.m. Teams bring their own custom-built boats to compete in a 200-yard race at the Waterfront Stadium.

Two classes of racers compete: The Buoy Class is for youth, ages 10-15 and the Cutter Class is open to anyone age 16 and older. Two-person and 3 to 8-person vessels are allowed.

Prize categories include fastest time, Fleet Award, Iceberg Award and People’s Choice. The Fleet Award goes to the best themed boat, while the Iceberg Award is for the best sinking.  

Advance Packaging, a corrugated cardboard packaging manufacturer has sponsored the race for the past two years.

"Boxes aren't always the most exciting thing in the world," said Scott Wilcox, VP of Sales and Marketing. "This gives our designers a chance to go a little bit crazy."

The team began work near the end of April, trying to figure out how to top the riverboat they made the previous year. They settled on a design copying one of the smaller Coast Guard vessels. From there, they needed to figure out how to actually make it.

"It gave us the freedom from a creative standpoint to do something out of the box," added Kurt Buche, Design Lab Manager. "We always have to worry about machine limitations and how it's going to run through the plant but not with this thing. It's all hand-done."

Advance Packaging Cardboard Boat 2018
This is Advance Packaging's Cardboard Boat from 2018.
Scott Kloss

Since they normally make boxes for stacking and storing, the most unusual element designers had to deal with was a buoyancy calculation. They crunched numbers and took a trip out to the Grand River to make sure the boat would be able to hold eight people.

"It's a pretty good representation of an actual Coast Guard boat. Hopefully they think it's really cool," Buche said.

"It represents the Coast Guard well," added Wilcox, "And I hope those guys appreciate all the work that went into it."

Friday, July 26, Advance Packaging will hold a boat-building event outside the Coast Guard Festival offices where teams can build their boats. The company will provide the cardboard and other building elements. They will also raffle off some ready-to-build cardboard boat kits for teams to assemble.

The finished boat will be on display among the big ships of the Coast Guard in Escanaba Park throughout the week.

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