Shianne Woods takes a spill from her cardboard boat Saturday during Medford’s third annual Cardboard Boat Races at Hawthorne Aquatic Center. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch cq

Staying Afloat

Simply staying afloat was a noble achievement for some of the competitors at Medford's third annual Cardboard Boat Races Saturday, but that wasn't good enough for Tom Sanderson and his friends.

Motivated by their failure in previous races, Sanderson and the day camp crew from Medford's Santo Community Center really wanted to beat the life guards' entry. They did that and more, swamping the entire fleet at Hawthorne Aquatic Center.

"Last year's boat was a failure," said Sanderson, who captained the Day Camp Destroyer. "We didn't design it very well. It wasn't long enough, so it wouldn't go straight. We made some improvements, including the grenade launcher on the front."

Grenades, however, weren't on the short list of authorized materials, so the crew had to make do with cardboard, duct tape and glue like everyone else. That proved good enough, as Sanderson paddled to the morning's fastest time — 1 minute, 14 seconds — over the 66-yard out-and-back course.

"We ran out of Liquid Nails and had to seal the rest of the bottom with wood glue," Sanderson said.

Sanderson, soon to be a junior at North Medford High School, teamed with Kyle McKinnis from the University of Oregon and Sam Howell of Biola University to design and build the swiftest craft on Hawthorne waters.

"We started building it Sunday and worked every day after work," said Sanderson, who was handed the paddle because he was 10 pounds lighter than either of his teammates. "We wanted to make it more aerodynamical too."

They searched the Web for ideas, and turned up a template of a cardboard kayak built in 1984 that remains floatable.

"We could only see the picture and didn't know what materials they used," McKinnis said. "We just made up the rest as we went."

A key component of the Destroyer was its raised seat, which kept its captain off his knees.

"If you're on your knees, all your weight is in one spot and you're more unstable," Sanderson said.

Jason Anderson, representing the Medford City Council, had two seats in his boat, one for the outbound voyage and one for the return trip.

The boat, designed by fellow council member Jim Kuntz, cut an impressive figure, a veritable aircraft carrier among dinghies. It raced against an entry resembling the piece of cheese on a mousetrap piloted by Judith Mickelson, and Anderson had no worries until reaching the far side. That's when his dual chair strategy flopped. Instead of merely shifting seats and reversing directions, his boat swung to the right, forcing a 360-degree turn. He wound up with the third best time of 1:41.

"There was just too much power out there and I couldn't control her," Anderson quipped. "She's a powerful beast."

Kuntz's boat was his largest yet, at 14 feet 3 inches, nearly half again as long as his two earlier entries. With its homage to Medford firefighters, the boat earned the best design award ahead of youngsters Denver Welk and Johnny Tressler, who finished second and third, respectively.

"I was just saving myself," said Anderson, who was hoping for another run before the cardboard boat version of demolition derby.

Even if there would have been a run-off among the top two performers, the big boat would've stayed in port. Cameron Wells, an 11-year-old whose sleek hydroplane-styled boat slipped effortlessly through the water, turned in the second-fastest time of 1:27.

"I sunk right off the bat last year," Wells said. "I was sitting in the boat and using my life jacket to keep afloat. This boat was wider and flatter and was much better."

All but six of the original 26 boats were still floating at the end of the races. It didn't take long for the life guards to trash the Day Camp Destroyer. Kuntz's big boat lasted a few minutes longer, but succumbed when it was flipped and torn asunder.

"Next time we'll need more (water) guns," Anderson admitted. "It took a full dozen, maybe a baker's dozen to get us."

The Titanic Award, given to the first boats to sink during the races, went to Joey Woods (youth), Diane Berry (adult) and Judith Mickelson (business).

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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