Students race across Saint Mary’s Lake in annual Fisher Regatta
Kathryn Muchnick | Monday, April 17, 2023
Over 35 teams sailed across St. Mary’s Lake in homemade boats for Fisher Hall’s annual Regatta Saturday afternoon.
The Regatta is Fisher Hall’s signature event, along with their fall semester Car Smash where students can donate money to hit a car with a sledgehammer. Both the Regatta and the Car Smash raise money for St. Adalbert Catholic School in South Bend.
In 2022, Fisher Hall raised $20,000 for the students of St. Adalbert’s, matching their record from the pandemic Regatta in 2021. This year, the Fishermen set a goal of raising $25,000, hoping to use the funds to improve the elementary school’s HVAC system.
“We’re still trying to do the math, because the donations are coming in from all over the place, but hopefully we’re gonna hit that goal pretty soon,” said Aidan McHugh, Regatta commissioner in Fisher.
In addition to raising money at the Regatta and Car Smash, Fisher maintains a relationship with St. Adalbert’s through a weekly tutoring and mentorship program.
“St. A’s is really a part of who we are, and that just rubs off on you. It’s just hard to be a part of Fisher and not be a part of St. A’s,” senior Reed Stevens said.
In addition to the race, Fisher sells food, Regatta t-shirts and the opportunity to dunk a Fisherman. Stevens, who works as a student manager in the dining hall, coordinated with South Dining Hall to donate the food for the event.
Between 30 and 40 Fisher residents are part of the planning committee, which McHugh described as an all-year process.
The race itself is broken down into two divisions, a women’s bracket and a mixed gender bracket, and both divisions have three rounds of racing.
“There are a lot of ways in which dorms can kind of compete against one another but a lot of it’s very sports-centric,” McHugh said. “The Regatta, that’s something that’s more accessible to everybody. Anybody can build a boat, race and have a decent shot at winning.”
McHugh did acknowledge the advantage of engineering majors, and indeed, the women’s division winners was a team of engineers, led by Anne Myler. Myler’s team also took second place in an open division race later that afternoon, McHugh said.
Sophomores Ayden Ellis and Emanuel Thelles-Chaves of Siegfried Hall won the open division, after a disappointing loss the previous year.
“I have wanted to build a boat for several years now,” said Ellis, a chemical engineering major. “The Fisher Regatta was one of the first things I saw when I was looking at colleges … about Notre Dame. And so I started building a boat the summer before I went to Notre Dame.”
Unfortunately, Ellis and Thelles-Chaves’ boat capsized in the middle of the race in 2022. Ellis attributed this to the watercraft’s rowboat form and his team’s lack of rowing ability.
“Everyone was cheering [when we sank] because our boat was intimidating,” Ellis joked.
This year’s boat, called The Redemption, was fashioned after some kayaks in Ellis’ backyard. Ellis finished it last Tuesday, and his team practiced on a nearby lake for three days in preparation.
“This year’s boat was super stable. And it was mainly, ‘What boat could beat Carroll Hall’s boat?’ which was very fast last year,” Ellis said.
Ellis said he expects to return to St. Mary’s Lake next year, with some additional improvements to The Redemption.
Mack Pittman, a junior living off-campus, built a Regatta boat for an assignment for her wood sculpture class, taught by MFA student Chip Sox.
Pittman had never participated in the Regatta before, but over a few weeks, her team built a wooden frame and then sealed a paper mache layer over top of some metal fencing. Although the Regatta was the first time they put the boat in the water, Pittman’s team triumphed in the first heat.
“After quite a rough start, it was a neck and neck finish with another group on an air mattress, so that was intense,” Pittman said.
Pittman’s boat began to sink during the semi-finals, forcing her and her teammate to swim to the finish, although she said the water wasn’t as gross as she expected it to be.
“[The Regatta] is fun, it gives people an opportunity to get into the lake. The weather yesterday absolutely made it perfect,” Pittman said.
Mae Harkins, another student in Sox’s class, made a “skin-on-frame” boat by steam-bending wood and sewing scrap denim and other fabric to fashion a cover.
“It’s fun to see how creative people can be with their boats and also how people can use a lot of technical skills. So there’s a lot of variety in the boats,” Harkins said.
Harkins recalled a boat buoyed by inflated garbage bags and one team that raced on a kiddie swimming pool. “It really spanned the whole spectrum,” she added.
The Regatta is an integral part of Fisher’s culture, Stevens said, and he loves seeing it passed down to each new generation of Fishermen.
“As a senior, kind of phasing out of the system now, it’s just so exciting to see that it’s gonna pick right back up where we left off,” Stevens said. “Seeing that community being lived into each successive year … that’s my favorite part.”