2016-08-18 / Around Town

‘Fools’ Throw Caution to the Wind

By James Merolla


Awards for Most Ingenious Design to Worst Example of Naval Architecture Award, a total of 28 entries entered the Fools’ Rules Regatta, mostly from Jamestown but one even from Connecticut. (Photo by James Merolla) Awards for Most Ingenious Design to Worst Example of Naval Architecture Award, a total of 28 entries entered the Fools’ Rules Regatta, mostly from Jamestown but one even from Connecticut. (Photo by James Merolla) Brian Brazil adjusted the coconut shells across his chest and screwed in another blue bin that would serve as his seat.

Brazil and mate Kevin Bressler were putting the final touches on their creation, “Banana Hammock,” which not only didn’t sink, but –  even more incredibly – won a judges’ award.

In the 39th annual Fools’ Rules Regatta, held Aug. 13 on the Town Beach at East Ferry in Jamestown, Brazil’s coconut bra belied the sobering fact that the two software engineers from Jamestown only had two hours to decide how their four-man vessel would be screwed or taped together before hoisting sail in the 500-yard race of sheer nonsense.

“We’ve won the worst example of naval architecture in the past for our PVC pipe pontoon,” said Bressler. “For this design, we got together at Lowe’s and explained to the Lowe’s guy what was going on. Then we talked at midnight. We don’t test anything.”

Some 28 entrants this year constructed so-called watercraft of non-marine items, ranging from umbrellas, plastic tubing, and Styrofoam to pink flamingos, toboggans, and even garbage bags. Some used hockey sticks for rudders and shower curtains for sails.

In blistering heat, Chief Fool Chris Powell, who organizes the event with his wife, Candy, and a sloop of volunteers, shouted instructions through a megaphone.

“We have had 39 years of this foolishness,” said Powell.

A mother and daughter posed for photos with a vessel that reminded the casual observer of Mr. Peanut, covered by a sheet. “Will it float?” someone asked.

“One can only hope,” the mother said.

It didn’t.

Vessels competed for first, second, and third place in each class, but more importantly, for bragging rights. Classes were determined by the number of participants on each vessel: one, two, three, four, and five or more (Unlimited). The largest class became more imaginative as the crafts became larger.

If they floated toward shore in the echoes of the yacht club cannon’s blast, well-meaning beachcombers pushed them back into place.

Capt. Max King and his crew of actual physicists from Providence made a pontoon of Hefty bags called “Sky Dog.”

“I did this race in fifth grade,” said King. “I’m 28 now. I decided to come back. David, my engineer here, wanted to make a boat – and here we are.”

“I had a dream about a garbage bag boat race,” said David of his interesting design choice.

“We did a test. It held up four people,” said King.

“To be fair,” added David, “they are heavy-duty garbage bags.”

Unbelievably, “Sky Dog” won the Unlimited class race.

Regatta Winners

Class 1: First – Nicole Drake; Second Jason Sturges; Third – Easton Joyce.

Class 2: First – Isabella & Alyssa; Second – Alex & Mark Ashton; Third – George Sturges & Michael Ludwig.

Class 3: First – Gabriel Sotomayor, George Lemmon, & James Cripps; Second –Jim, Jason & Jennifer Sturges; Third – Lee Dumaliang, Rachel & Ian Bryer.

Class 4: First – Jesse, Trinity & Leo Mischel & Deb White; Second – Luke & Cooper Berthelot, Mark Swistak II & Mark Swistak III; Third – Abby Brodin, Brady, Ethan & Owen Champlin.

Unlimited: First – Maxmillian King & crew; Second – Eric Therrien, Brian Brazil, Joe Wilkicki, Kevin Bresler, & Jim Kutter; Third – Heidi Sakovits & crew.

Special Awards: Karl Smith Most Ingenious Design Award – Sean & Connor Doyle; Worst Example of Naval Architecture Award – Lily Burg, Matther, Kati & Julie Delaney; Frank Newman Judges’ Award – Eric Therrien, Brian Brazil, Joe Wilkicki, Kevin Bressler, & Jim Kutter.

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