Brent Spivey has had a passion for building and racing cardboard boats for about 15 years. He’s hoping other people and businesses in and around Hope Mills will develop the same enthusiasm when the town holds its first cardboard boat race and demolition derby Saturday, June 30.
Final registration begins at 11 a.m. the day of the race, although pre-registration is encouraged to get a race T-shirt in your preferred size. Judging begins at noon, and the racing follows shortly afterward.
The competition is part of the town’s lake celebration that coincides with the run-up to the town’s annual celebration of the Fourth of July.
Spivey said he’s raced cardboard boats all over the state of North Carolina and even went all the way to Arkansas to compete in the 2015 world championship. He won the world championship that year with a boat called North Carolina Spirit.
He approached Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner with the idea of having a cardboard boat race as part of the lake celebration activities. “She was ecstatic,’’ he said.
Spivey said he built his first cardboard boat, a replica of a Viking ship, from cardboard boxes he scavenged from the dump and furniture stores.
“I laid out the ribs and did everything,’’ Spivey said. “I really overdid it. It was very heavy.’’ Spivey said the basic design of a cardboard boat is to make it with the fewest seams possible, those
points where separate pieces of cardboard come together.
“The more cardboard you have and the bigger the pieces, the better,’’ Spivey said. As for ideas for boat designs, Spivey has borrowed from movies and history. He once did boats modeled after the Civil War ironclads Monitor and Virginia. He also did the famous shark-fishing boat Orca from the hit film “Jaws.”
Other decisions go into the design, like figuring out how many people will occupy the boat. That’s one thing that surprises most people, Spivey said, because when they hear it’s a cardboard boat they assume it’s a miniature, not one large enough for human passengers.
“I did one that had six people in it,’’ he said. “It was 25-feet long. It was a big ambition. It did sink.’’
One of the biggest challenges Spivey faces is staying within the bounds of reality when designing a boat. Getting cardboard the right size is a challenge. For the biggest pieces, he said refrigerator boxes are an excellent option. When people register to enter the boat race, Spivey said the town of Hope Mills has some pretty good-sized sheets of cardboard available to entrants. “They can get one, two or three sheets with their registration fee, then they can buy more,’’ he said.
Another factor to consider in boat-building is the distance of the race and exactly what kind of competition you’re in. For the Hope Mills event, those who are looking to build the fastest boat should know the plan is for this to be what Spivey calls a fairly short course.
For shorter races, he suggests a boat 6 to 8 feet long. The Hope Mills course will be in the vicinity of the public swimming area at Hope Mills Lake. It will run parallel to the shore – about 50 to 75 yards. Competitors will have to make one turn and then come back.
But speed isn’t going to be the only factor in fielding a winning boat, Spivey said.
There will be a Pride of the Fleet Award for bestlooking boat, a Team Spirit Award for the boat with best spirit, which will be judged on theme and costumes, and a Titanic Award for the most spectacular sinking.
At the end of the competition, any boats that competed in at least one heat and survived will be eligible to compete in the demolition derby, with the surviving boat taking the Iron Clad Award.
There’s also a People’s Choice Award for the boat with the most donations. Donations and entry fees will go to support various lake improvement projects.
A complete list of rules on competition categories and materials permitted in boat construction is available at www.townofhopemills.com. For further information, call 910-734-9994.
“This is a family-oriented thing,’’ Spivey said. “It’s fun. You should come with a real fun attitude.’’