Fools rule East Ferry
People from as far away as Florida were in town to get a glimpse of the renowned Fools’ Rules Regatta, a sailboat race that is like no other. The regatta consists of amateur boatbuilders who are asked to construct a vessel using materials that are ill equipped for the task. No sails. No rudders. No paddles.
There were 37 entries into the 36th edition of the event, and a northwest breeze helped showcase the cast of improvised sailboats as they raced the length of five football fields along the East Ferry shore. Head organizer Chris Powell was again chief fool, firing the 10-gauge cannon at 9 a.m. to signal the beginning of the boatbuilding.
The regatta consists of five classes, each determined by the number of crew aboard. Pawtucket’s Allen Rushlow, 12, took home the ribbon in the solo class with a come-from-behind victory over Jamestown’s Alyssa Gibbs, also 12. Allen was aboard “Tubie,” a rubber inner tube with a piece of raw lumber as a rudder and an umbrella for a sail. “Alyssa’s Airline,” with homewater advantage, took second in the class. Third place went to “Cunha Blows,” skippered by Bill Leikam of Warwick.
“Los Bufones,” along with its third-place ribbon, was also awarded the Frank Newman Judges Award. The award is named after a former University of Rhode Island president who every year up until his death invited his entire family to his house for a boatbuilding party.
Jamestown 17-year-olds Ava White and Tom Clancy were the brainchild of “Los Bufones.” Sporting painted-on mustaches and soul patches, the duo built their boat using PVC pipes to secure the sail and two rubber inner tubes as flotation devices. A piece of plywood above the tubes acted as the floor, and also as support for a bench made from two-by-fours, which Ava sat on in the back of the boat. Aesthetically the exterior was designed with faux brick and a large red medieval cross graced the sail.
The coveted award given to the worst example of naval architecture was won by a Jamestown family, the Rogers. The team of Ron, Olivia and Marisa were awarded for their creation, “The Meep ‘R.’” Not only did the boat prove to be an ineffective mode of transportation, it wasn’t the prettiest to look at either. Two red curtain sails flew above a duct-taped wooden base with empty milk gallons floating behind like cans on a “Just Married” car.
The Karl Smith Award for most ingenious design was given to the Sturges family of Tiverton. Jim, along with his children, teenager George and twin 9-year-olds Jen and Jason, sailed aboard Slippery Slope. The catamaran-style sailboat had Styrofoam hulls attached to a unique frame – a trampoline. A blue tarp acted as the sail, and a Providence Bruins flag flew atop the mast.
The award is named after the regatta’s founder, who organized the inaugural event in 1978.
Other notable boats included “Cast Aweigh,” a vessel made by a group of Bay Staters that won the unlimited class. “Cast Aweigh” crew member Henry Lyon, of Shrewsbury, Mass., has quite the Fools’ Rules Regatta resume. He won the unlimited class in 2012 and 2010 aboard “Bi-Polar Express” and “3 Sheets to the Wind,” respectively, and was the recipient of the Karl Smith Award for “Bi- Polar Express” in 2012 and for “Just Ducky” in 2011.
Lyon’s theme this year was the Tom Hanks movie “Cast Away,” hence the boat’s name. Props included a FedEx package, balloons resembling coconuts atop the mast, and Wilson, the volleyball that Hanks befriended in the film.
Other winners were:
• Class 3: “Poly Vinyl Catastrophe,” Alex Kintz, Stephen Bukowsky and Jim Pilcher of Groton, Conn.; “3 Stooges,” George Lemmon, Gabriel Sotomayor and Oliver Moss of Jamestown; and “Unicorn,” Hannah, Ella and Ada Gluckman of Cranston.
• Class 4: “Team Buzzard,” David and Dara Parlin, John Wheelock and Ann Holt of Westport, Mass.; and “Sleeping Onboard,” Matt Gibbs of Jamestown.
• Unlimited class: “Cast Aweigh,” Henry Lyon, Kevin Green, Cam Hutt, Andrew Lampi, Mary Sullivan, and Daniel and Suzanne Wilcox of Shrewsbury, Mass; “Clam Jam Cabal,” Emily Norton of Jamestown; and “Sea Goals,” Steven Bois of Saunderstown.