Bob Friday

Bob Friday

Nanaimo’s silliest sailors gear up for annual regatta

NANAIMO – Team signing up to raise cash - and a few eyebrows - at 2013 Coast Capital Savings Silly Boat Regatta.

What started out as a fun charity event back in 1984 has evolved into one of Nanaimo’s premier family summer events.

The 2013 Coast Capital Savings Silly Boat Regatta is just a few days off and 47 teams are signed up and ready to launch their creative, if not always seaworthy, craft into Nanaimo Harbour.

The annual regatta, which happens Sunday (July 21) at Maffeo Sutton Park, is the single largest annual fundraiser for the Nanaimo Child Development Centre which has helped children with developmental needs and their families since 1967.

“We have room for a few more and 20 of those teams are brand new,” said Michelle Kocourek, the centre’s resource development coordinator.

The venue can handle up to 56 teams before Maffeo Sutton Park simply runs out of space for participants to assemble silly boats.

The basic rules for Silly Boating are pretty simple.

Teams design fanciful watercraft – that often present their passengers with a sink or swim proposition when they fall apart – that will hopefully float the team around a short course on the Nanaimo Harbour and back to shore faster than their competitors.

The boats can be made of components fabricated off site, but must be assembled by the teams at the park the morning of the event, which, of course, is all part of the spectacle people come out to see.

Once racing gets underway, winning teams from each heat move on to the finals for a shot at the grand championship race.

But speed isn’t everything. There are prizes for the silliest boat and first boat to sink in each race.

Teams even compete over raising the most donations. Last year Silly Boaters raised more than $114,000 to support the centre’s programs and clients.

The competition is fun and challenging so teams, in one form or another, keep coming back year after year.

Bob Friday of Friday Design has been designing Silly Boats since 2006.

“For anyone who likes to build stuff it’s a really good challenge,” Friday said. “So my involvement, for the most part, has been to design the vehicles, source materials and every year we do something, usually, completely different.”

The team is named for Friday and team partner Dan Faux, but is comprised of about a dozen people who come out each year to build and crew whatever craft gets concocted or just lend support by getting the other team members food and water through the day.

Last year’s Silly Boat was powered by oars, which didn’t work out too well because the crew couldn’t raise the paddles out of the water without the oar shafts hitting their knees.

In 2006, as part of the Crimson Coast Dance Society team, Friday played a part in winning the Super Silliest Sailors category on a bicycle-powered paddle boat.

The oar concept is back this year, but will be combined, somehow, with 60 plastic carboys donated by Art of Brewing in Ladysmith.

“Some teams, they’re more fundraising oriented,” Friday said. “We don’t really raise that much money, but we make it a good event because we bring a pretty cool craft to the table.”

Sunday’s event is expected to draw about 10,000 spectators down to the waterfront to watch the boat building and take part in the Sport Zone events, face painting, crafts and games, the children’s mini regatta in Swy-a-lana Lagoon and, of course, to witness the races themselves.

There will be a few new wrinkles to the event this year too, including more opportunities to make donations.

“We have the Silver Mile, which is a board with spaces for loonies or toonies on it,” Kocourek said. “People can come and stick a loonie or toonie on.”

Silly Boat T-shirts will be on sale and raffle tickets, too, for prizes including a WestJet trip for two, an Arbutus RV one-week motor home rental, a Kiyo Salon and Day Spa package and a playhouse from Western Forest Products.

Tickets are available at Nanaimo Child Development Centre or at the event.

“This is one of the best-attended events in the city and one of the best family events,” Kocourek said. “This is really, truly, a family-oriented event and it’s for a wonderful cause. We have 326 children on the waiting list right now, who are waiting up to nine months for services, so community awareness is a huge component of this as well.”

For more information about the Silly Boat Regatta, please visit the event website at