A dozen boats floated (or didn’t) for charity at the third annual Cardboard Boat Race on Maiden Lake. Ezra Black/The Free Press

Cardboard boat regatta on Maiden Lake

On its inaugural voyage, Willie Westerby’s boat immediately sank after being pushed into Maiden Lake during the second annual Cardboard Boat Race.

This year, for the third annual Cardboard Boat Race, he was taking no chances.

He and builder Eric Mutcher constructed an astoundingly seaworthy vessel complete with an outrigger and thwarts. Armed with a kayak paddle, Westerby easily finished the race, well ahead of the closest competitor.

“We learned the hard way,” said Westerby. “Last year’s design didn’t go so well. It sunk about three feet off shore. It was a bit on the top heavy side so we decided to go with stability this year.”

“Stability was the answer.”

Sponsored by Cook’s Electrical Services, the local business provided the materials and space for the boat’s construction, he said.

Mutcher reportedly stayed up very late the previous night to finish its construction.

“The only thing I did was help paddle,” said Westerby.

Using cardboard, duct tape and a few other odds and ends, a number of eager citizens became amateur shipwrights, using their skill and ingenuity to transform these materials into vessels for the water. On Saturday, over 200 people lined the lakeshore and watched as the finely engineered creations crossed – and in some cases sank into – its waters.

Fernie’s Elks Lodge organized the event and is donating all proceeds from entry fees to the club’s Royal Purple Cross Fund for Children. Mutcher and Westerby are both Elks members and said they’d be donating their $400 prize to the Fernie Friends for Friends Foundation.

The boats were split into two groups for the races; one if they’d been sponsored by a business and the other for private citizens who’d gone it alone.

All boats had to be built from non-waxed cardboard, tape and paint. The race had competitors make their way across the lake, switched paddlers and then return to the beach.

Coming in a distant second was Lady Literacy, sponsored by the Fernie Heritage Library and CIBC and paddled by Wolfie Weixelbaum and Daniel McRae. Constructed water-tight and sturdy out of used watermelon crates from the grocery store, the boat was built by Xavier Vaughan, Sarah Buchan, Emmanuel Juneau and Maria Landa.

The first race of the day was won by Zion, Diesel and India Hughes who paddled their boat to victory after several of their competitors’ vessels became waterlogged and surrendered themselves to the murky deep.

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