Big crowds and not so big model boats converged at the Government Dock Saturday for a windy ninth annual Old Town Pond Sailors Regatta.
The yearly nautical contest, which sees competitors cast their do-it-yourself miniature vessels into Yellowknife Bay for a race to the wind-assisted finish, drew longtime Old Town residents, curious spectators and young – and not so young – kid-parent racers.
“It’s super fun,” said Jay Bulckaert, who, along with his father Al, made up one of the race’s more senior parent-offspring duos.
With Al visiting from Ontario, Jay, an Old Town resident, suggested the two compete in the race.
“We put our heads together and decided to make one very last minute,” said Jay.
The finished product? A hot-pink sailboat made of cardboard.
“Most people think we’re crazy trying to make a boat out of cardboard. (They think) it’s going to sink,” said Al. “No, we know how to make this so it’s going to float.”
Al’s technical background proved handy with the design of the eye-catching creation. After finding the schematics of a similar, larger boat, he scaled down the design to bring the mini contender to life.
The model boat came with a couple – legal – tricks up its sleeve.
“What’s very good about this boat is that it’s jet propelled,” said Jay moments before race-time. “The rules are you can’t have any electronics, but those things are filled with high-grade vinegar, and then my dad made some charges that are made of equally high-grade baking soda.”
It’s a natural kick Jay banked on, but admitted it’s anyone’s game – an unpredictability he said is part of the event’s charm.
Jay said events like the regatta and the Dead North film festival, which he runs, give the underdog a chance to come out on top.
“That’s the beauty of these types of events in this town. You get folks who come out who are pros, people who are doing it for the first time. And often, it’s the first-time people who win,” said Jay.
His sentiment was echoed by regatta founder Anthony “Snow King” Foliot, who said a miniature boat doesn’t need to be “fancy” to be crowned champion.
Nicolas Servel and his three-year-old son Elliott were one of those newcomer duos testing their crafty creations Saturday.
Nicolas, who enjoys real-life sailing himself, designed most of the ship – dubbed Elliott and made of Styrofoam and bamboo sticks – while while his young co-caption observed.
“But he designed the sails and customized them a little,” said Servel. “I’m hoping he may have the taste to try his own a bit later.”
For many families with a boat in the race, the ninth annual regatta was the latest in a long line.
Kiran Ray, 11, and sister Sula, 8, have both competed in the last few races – with the help of mom and dad.
Like many others, they started last-minute, but got a helping hand from their mom, who sewed the mini-boat sails, and from their father, who helps them design year after year.
After strong winds made for a short race, the top three boats were crowned – and on-land sailors took home prizes.
Pat Kane’s the Procrastinate – a rented model boat put together by regatta founder Tony “Snow King” Foliot just hours before the race – reached the marker on Yellowknife Bay first, snagging top prize. Jeff Singer’s the SS Eva Went Camping – named after his designer daughter’s last-minute trip – took second-place with a low-budget bottle, filled with bottoms and buoyed by balloons.
Jay, Al, and their powered-by-science vinegar vessel rounded out the top three.
Foliot says next year’s race, the 10th annual, will be better and bigger – but still tiny.