All Aboard — on Cardboard! Student Shipbuilders Sail to Victory

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The race to the finish line has young shipbuilders constructing homemade, water-tight vessels out of cardboard.

That’s right: With the help of some duct tape, glue and other simple adhesives, these cardboard watercrafts sail more often than sink.

At Chicago’s North Shore Yacht Club, it was father versus son as James Santucci and Zach Santucci were among the nine entrants in the club’s annual Cardboard Boat Race. Zach, 14, paddled to victory seated in a small captain’s chair on his boat, made from a flat-panel-TV box. But it wasn’t beginner’s luck: The younger Santucci has entered the annual race at least twice before, but told the Chicago Tribune that this year he was determined to win.

The increasingly popular races aren’t just purely for fun. Some schools are also using it as an educational experience. Physics students at New Haven High School were tasked with building boats from cardboard and adhesive for the 17th Annual Anchors Away competition. The boats had to support the students’ own weight as they navigated an obstacle course in a swimming pool – not an easy feat for growing teens.

“We learned how to calculate everything and, like, how math applies to this, like, in real life, because it actually worked, like, our calculations worked, and … I wasn’t expecting that,” senior Brianna Dishong told

And in Jackson, Mich., 16 entrants were part of a fundraising effort from The United Way of Jackson County. The 5th Annual “What Floats Your Cardboard Boat?” race kicks off the organization’s fall campaign.

Director of Resource Development Beth Shafter tells WLNS that the wobbliness of gaining your sea legs is akin to the unsteadiness that families living in poverty experience every day.

Working to raise both funds and awareness, the race is spirited, fun and gets the community involved.

And that’s something everyone can get on board with.