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Come sail away

Observer Scene | Friday, April 15, 2005

Just like cross-dressing Bookstore Basketball teams and rampant procrastination, the Fisher Regatta can always be counted on to storm campus with enthusiasm each spring.

The spirited competition began modestly in 1987 and has since evolved into one of the premier signature dorm events as handcrafted boats race across Saint Mary’s lake in pursuit of the prestigious Fisher Hall Regatta Cup. Rivalry and dorm pride abound as teams prepare for the aquatic battle. While many seem to train seriously, other watercrafts focus more on flaunting creative features like kegs and bicycles for flotation and paddling purposes.

These playful entries do provide entertainment for the crowds watching from shore, but water safety personnel have raised concerns that an increasing number of participants have been mixing alcohol with water in recent years. Since the Regatta organizers emphasize water safety, rowers who are deemed to be noticeably intoxicated will be disqualified and asked to leave the premises. Even sober paddlers have a tendency to fall overboard each year, so everyone is required to wear a life jacket on the water.

Many teams take their boating endeavors more seriously, though, and make earnest runs for the cup. Last year’s showdown in the men’s final saw the Angry Mob of O’Neill defeat the Siegfried Ramblers, while the women’s final pitted two Welsh Family boats against one another for the title. The host dorm’s own boat made it to the semifinals before being edged out by Siegfried and will make its third Regatta appearance this year.

“We are happy that our boat is still in working condition,” said Chris ‘The Boat Guy’ Tilton, Fisher’s master craftsman who built the Green Wave’s current vessel for the 2003 contest. “With some skilled rowers, we’ll have a good chance to win the race.”

Due to controversy last year stemming from close heats, the finish line officiating will be upgraded.

“In years past, the races have not been that close, and usually someone runs away with it,” Regatta co-chair Mike Bufalino said. “And last year, there were a couple really good boats. O’Neill, Siegfried and Carroll all had really good boats, and it all came down to the last second.

“Last year, we didn’t really have an official at the finish line, so this year we’re going to make a bigger effort to do a better job to declare winners.”

Bufalino and co-chair Mike Coogan encouraged all dorm presidents to rally support within their respective halls for the tradition. As usual, free food and drinks will be available all day so rowers and their fans can enjoy burgers, hot dogs, pizza and snacks. Sponsors include Coca-Cola, which agreed to supply soft drinks for the duration of the event, and all proceeds from the Regatta will directly benefit Andre House, a ministry to the poor and homeless in the Phoenix area.

“The residents of Fisher Hall are enthusiastic about this event, knowing that the Regatta provides a day of campus-wide entertainment and an atmosphere of healthy dorm competition,” Bufalino and Coogan said in a letter to all hall presidents.

Tilton echoed this sentiment that it was an all-inclusive fun time, not only for Fisher.

“The Regatta is a great event for both Fisher and the rest of campus,” Tilton said. “It creates some friendly rivalries between the dorms.”

Part of Fisher’s excitement is generated in the week leading up to the actual Regatta. Events each night amplify dorm unity for the main event and began last weekend with a dorm poker tournament at a former Fisher resident’s Lafayette apartment.

Monday was Section Wars night in the basement, which included tests of physical and mental prowess, such as the Roommate Game. Reminiscent of the Newlywed Game, it reveals how much roommates know – or don’t know – about each other. There were also heavyweight and lightweight arm wrestling contests, no-hands pie eating contests and the opportunity to get an unflattering haircut.

“I’m not sure how many people are going to be willing to do that though,” Bufalino said before Section Wars night. “I’m sure we’ll get a few freshmen to do it. That’s what always seems to happen.”

A few brave Fishermen did sacrifice their hair for the sake of their sections, including hall president Jake Benedict, now sporting an F on the back of his head.

Next up was Traditions night on Tuesday, with guest speaker Patricia O’Hara, dean of the law school. Wednesday night the notorious Red Mock Awards took place, where honors were handed out for questionable distinctions like being smelly or lazy, or for antics from throughout the year. There were also contests running throughout the week, like a photo contest of random subjects, where the pictures were shown at the awards “ceremony.”

An ongoing game of Assassins also took place during the week, where partners armed with squirt guns hunted down their assigned victims. The Spring Bling ensued Thursday, with live music, grilling and other entertainment on South Quad. Tonight’s event is the Zoo, the annual dorm-wide bash where each section throws a party. Wrapping up the week Saturday night, there will be a dorm dance in the Fisher/Pangborn courtyard after the Regatta.

“The dorm comes together as a community all the time,” Coogan said, “but everyone gets really excited about this. It’s a really big deal … it’s just a lot of fun to do all this crazy stuff and have a really big week of dorm pride.”

The Fisher Regatta will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday on Saint Mary’s Lake.