In 37 days, teams on handmade plastic jug rafts will enter the Willamette River in West Linn and paddle for glory in the third annual Recycle Regatta. The regatta will begin 2 p.m. Saturday, July 20, at the Bernert Landing Boat Ramp.
The creative boat race has already become a favorite at the West Linn Old Time Fair. Seaneen Rudkin-Manning, a member of the fair committee, started the Recycle Regatta because she wanted the fair to make more use of the Willamette River.
"The river is such a resource and honestly, we don't do enough with it," she said. "We have the wonderful water ski show and because of that the river is closed to boats."
Thinking of how best to use the river, she remembered the bathtub boat races she used to watch growing up in British Columbia. Eventually, she found the idea of racing boats made of recycled plastics from a Google search.
"I like an event where you get to dress up and blow the air horn," Rudkin-Manning said.
Creative costumes are also a key element of the race as teams compete for best dressed as well as fastest raft.
"(The best part of Recycle Regatta) is seeing families and groups come together," Rudkin-Manning said. Throughout the entire process, from planning to boat-building to race day, participants make lifelong memories she said.
While the competition can be fierce, some of the best moments are the failures of the race: sinking rafts and teams trying to take off while their raft is still tied to the dock. These funny instances are part of what make the event so memorable accoring to Rudkin-Manning.
Bill Sapp, a racer in the past two Recycle Regattas, commented on the competitive spirit of the race.
"It's a lot of fun," he said. "The banter between boats can be fun."
Sapp also offered some veteran advice to racers building their boats for the first time: "Rinse your milk jugs. We also siliconed the tops of the milk jugs last year to prevent water from getting in, and hopefully to make sure they last until the next year so you don't have to find more milk jugs."
Rudkin-Manning has been pleased with the turnout at the event the past couple of years. Four teams competed in the first ever race in 2017. She said she considered it a success that they had more than one team enter.
Tour the Willamette at Old Time Fair
The West Linn Old Time Fair will feature a new event this year, allowing fair-goers to paddle along for a two-hour guided tour of the river. During the Tour of the Willamette Narrows, which will take place 3:30 Saturday, July 20 and 12:30 Sunday, July 21, participants will travel about three miles along the river on their own canoes, kayaks or paddle boards while a guide talks about local history and highlights interesting features along the bank. eNRG Kayaking will be onsite with rentals, but advanced reservations are recommended.
Interested fair-goers can sign up at the fair information booth. There is no cost to participate but donations for the West Linn Food Bank are encouraged. The event is for intermediate to experienced paddlers.
The next year, she said all four teams returned and four or five newcomers entered. Everyone from last year has expressed interest in taking part again this year as well as several more, Rudkin-Manning said. She said she'd like more groups that already exist in the community to compete against each other.
"I'd love to see the football team against the basketball team," she said.
Rudkin-Manning wanted to remind racers that the most important rule, besides having fun, is that no part of the boat besides the bottles and jugs can be in the water.
For people struggling to find enough bottles for their raft, she suggested going to local businesses.
"Coffee shops and places like that go through a large number of plastic bottles a day and you can go ask them for them," she said. "You don't have to keep all of your milk cartons for a year."
Registration forms and more information for the Recycle Regatta can be found on the event's page of the Old Time Fair website https://westlinnoregon.gov/oldtimefair/we-gotta-regatta.
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