Amateur boat builders take to water for the children

The Silly Boat Regatta is a fundraiser for the child development centre where teams build make-shift boats out of whatever – pool noodles, wood, styrofoam – often held together with duct tape.

The VIEX Krazy Kountry Kritters are in the crosshairs.

The team is the two-time reigning champion in the annual Silly Boat Regatta and aiming for a third-straight title when teams hit the water Sunday (July 17).

The team from Kiyo Salon and Day Spa is just waiting for a crack at the champs.

“[VIEX] is going for their third grand championship,” said Michelle Kocourek, one of the organizers of the 27th annual event. “Kiyo is going to give them a run for their money.”

The Silly Boat Regatta is a fundraiser for the Nanaimo Child Development Centre and involves teams building make-shift boats out of whatever – pool noodles, wood, styrofoam – often held together with duct tape.

Anything can happen once those boats, put together onsite at Maffeo Sutton Park the morning of the regatta, are loaded with crew and paddles – in 2008, the VIEX crew earned the dubious title of fastest to sink.

That’s what the Nanaimo Child Development Centre team, which is also focusing on a championship, will keep in mind when they begin boat building at 8:30 a.m.

When building starts, no one knows what the boats will look like until noon. Racing begins at 1 p.m.

“Every year it’s different,” Kocourek said. “Boats change every year.”

Through entry fees, sponsorship and activities, the event raises money for programs and services at the centre, including physiotherapy, occupational and speech therapy.

Kocourek said the centre currently has a list of 343 children waiting up to a year for help.

Occupational therapy provides daily living assistance at school and home, from wheelchair fittings to feeding. Speech therapy helps correct stuttering, lisps and other speech impediments.

More than 10,000 people typically head to Maffeo Sutton Park to watch more than 50 teams compete for bragging rights. Before the races, families can keep busy and entertained in Wally’s World pavillion, featuring bouncy castles, arts and crafts, and miniature golf.

“We have a ton of stuff in the Wally’s World pavillion,” Kocourek said.

Teams of students in the Masters of Business Administration program at Vancouver Island University are competing to raise the most money through raffles, food sales and activities. They’ve got a dunk tank, sports zone and ball toss for prizes.

“It’s kind of like The Apprentice,” Kocourek said.

The child development centre is also holding a raffle for a rental from Arbutus RV, $500 spa package from Kiyo salon and a trip for two anywhere WestJet flies.

The goal is to raise $125,000. Last year, the event raised more than $100,000.

“It is one of the best-attended one-day events in Nanaimo,” Kocourek said.

The deadline to register a team for Silly Boat is today (July 14). For more information, please call 250-753-0251, ext. 227, or visit