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Sink or Swim, Regatta Returns

Madeline Buckley | Friday, April 25, 2008

Thirty-two homemade boats will race across Saint Mary’s Lake tomorrow, vying for the coveted honor of winning the 22nd annual Fisher Regatta.

Many boats will survive the waters and reach the other side, while inevitably some unlucky crafts will make the bottom of the lake their permanent home. The sailors and the spectators will make up the crowd for Fisher’s signature dorm event.

“Usually about ten to twelve hundred people show up,” Regatta co-commissioner Drew Clary said. “We serve tons of food that is generally gone in an hour,” he said.

Jay Farraher organized Fisher Hall’s first regatta in 1987. A freshman at the time, Farraher and some friends sought to create an event that united the men of Fisher Hall, while raising money for charity at the same time.

“We wanted to achieve [an event] on the level of Bookstore Basketball, AnTostal and the Keenan Review,” Farraher said in an e-mail. Twenty-two years later, Farraher is happy to see that Regatta has grown into an event that hundreds of students attend each year. “I am very proud of the fact that the Regatta is still going strong,” he said.

Race day will find boats made of every conceivable material lined up on the shore, ready to take on their opponents. There will be anywhere from two to eight people per boat, with each boat entered into either a male or female bracket, Clary said. The objective is to build a fast and efficient boat that will get the team across the lake before the opposing team, advancing them in the bracket.

“It is common for the girl’s dorms to have multiple boats. The guys are more competitive and generally focus all their energy on one boat,” he said.

While some boats are pretty basic, made out of wood and caulk, many people get creative with their building materials. “

One year, some girls made a boat with mats from the game Twister, while another group created a boat with ‘root beer’ kegs,” he said. Clary also pointed out that in the past, awards have been given out for “Most Creative Boat.”

However while boat building materials run the gamut, not all of them stay afloat.

“Last year, Sorin’s boat sank right at the starting line,” Clary said. “There must be a fair number of boats at the bottom of that lake.”

Fisher, though, has learned in past years what works best in creating a fast and buoyant boat. Clary’s freshman year, the Fishermen built a boat that was about 500-600 pounds. “It was a monster, but really cool, like a party barge,” he said.

However, the beast of a boat required 22 men to carry it out to the lake, and by the time the boat was steadily cruising across the water, Fisher’s opponent had already crossed the finish line. But Clary and his dormmates have learned from their mistake, this year Fisher’s boat considerably smaller.

While some dorms like Fisher and Sorin try to learn from past mistakes, other dorms have a tried and true formula; namely, O’Neill.

“O’Neill has used same boat for several years. There are tallies on the side of the boat that show that the boat has won 4 or 5 times,” Clary said.

The fun and excitement encompassing the Regatta is the result of a major organizational feat. NDSP, the South Bend Fire Department, and South Bend’s Water Safety Unit are all involved in the event, Clary said. They partake in the event as a precaution, bringing in scuba gear and patrolling the water in motorboats. But the event is just as fun for them as it is for the students.

“They love it. Last year, one of the [firemen] brought his son, and he just road around in the motorboat with everyone,” Clary said.

Along with the safety precautions, the commissioners are also in charge of handling the money to be sent to the charity. Every year, the Regatta benefits the Andre House, a Holy Cross Organization service organization in the Phoenix area.

Every dorm donates $40 to enter their first boat. If they choose to enter additional boats, each one will cost $30, Clary said. The dorm will also sell tee shirts priced at $10 to raise money. The cost of putting on the event, namely the cost of food, is covered by dorms funds and sponsorships.

“We have a tight budget so we expanded our sponsorship this year,” Clary said, stating that Catering by Design will donate about half of the food, and that Papa Johns will be supplying gift certificates to the race’s winners.

The day of the race starts at 7 a.m. for the commissioners. They will make sure everything is in place before waking up the rest of the dorm at 11 a.m. to finish preparations. At noon the grill will be fired up. Finally, at 1:00 pm, the races will commence.

Contact Madeline Buckley at mbuckley@nd.edu.