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The Fisher Regatta

| Thursday, April 28, 2011

It’s back. If you haven’t heard by now, or seen the tank tops to match, this Sunday is the day “YOU GOTTA REGATTA!” Celebrating its 25th year of competition, Sunday’s Fisher Regatta will have teams rowing, racing, splashing and facing off as they speed across the cold waters of Saint Mary’s Lake.

Armed with candy, representatives of Fisher Hall have stationed themselves in front of the dining halls and DeBartolo Hall all week to pelt passersby with sweets in promotion of the event.  So don’t be surprised if your daily rush to class is interrupted by a Snickers bar to the head.

Born in 1986, the Fisher Regatta has proudly hosted the crazy, ingenious, bizarre and humorous watercraft creations of Notre Dame students.

This year, with 41 boats entered, the first commemorative $10 “YOU GOTTA REGATTA” tank top, music and a feast of bratwurst and hotdogs fit to serve more than 1,000 people, Sunday’s regatta is expected to draw a huge crowd. Still, it’s the sportsmanship and competitive spirit that will have fans cheering on the banks of Saint Mary’s Lake.

Granted, how many boats will actually float is questionable, but this is Notre Dame. Buoyancy — optional, Winning — necessary.

Rules: Boats must be homemade or assembled from scavenged objects and materials. With a history of crewmembers abandoning ship and leaping onto other boats mid-race, crews must remain on their boats and cannot intentionally sink another team’s craft. Each race sets two teams head-to-head, narrowing the competition to an elite handful of crews that race against one another at the end of the day.

Race commissioner and Fisher sophomore Kevin Bell said Fisher has come out in full force to take on the dominant defending champion O’Neill Hall.

“O’Neill has a boat that a mechanical engineer made as a design project and it’s ridiculously fast,” he said. “But we’ve gone up from our usual dorm total of two boats to six or seven for this year.”

The Fisher fleet boasts two canoes, a barge, a gondola and other ship-like contraptions, including a raft of inflatable turtles.  In assembling their armada, Fisher teams dismantled old lofts, gathered donations and bought supplies at local home improvement stores.

Fisher freshman Brett Ubl said his modified canoe is built from insulation foam donated to the team by a roofing contractor. Though he and his crew are improvising, their method seems to be working.

“We might make this into a gondola and have the one and only Joe Padgi serenade all of the people on beautiful Saint Mary’s Lake,” he said.  “Hopefully it’ll float us.”

Beyond the nails, screwdrivers, saws, blood, sweat and tears that go into making a boat worthy of the Fisher Regatta, tactics play an important role come race day. Solidity, craftsmanship and flags go a long way in intimidating other teams. Beyond appearance, a lightweight crew is key to a team’s success. Then you just row until you can’t row any more.