Friends to host several races this weekend

ALPENA -The Friends of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary will be holding several races over the Fourth of July weekend, including the sanctuary’s fan favorite cardboard boat regatta, an open water challenge, and a 3K paddleboard race.

The 4th annual cardboard boat regatta takes place Friday at 2 p.m., with a check-in time for participants of 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for judging.

“There are several classes including a kids paddle, single sailor, cruise of two or a three and over passenger class,” Friends Coordinator Cathy Green said. “It’s a great event to watch or participate in, and is a lot of fun.”

Regatta race coordinator Tane Casserley said when the race first started, the sanctuary was looking for a fun way to get people in the water during the Maritime Festival.

“Since we started the regatta, the race has been a hit,” Casserley said. “We encourage people to have fun and be creative with their boats and even to dress in costume and realy get into it. I’ve seen some great cardboard boats in the race from a bathtub to Lewis and Clark, and George Washington crossing the Deleware.”

The race also offers awards for fun such as the Pride of the Fleet award for the best engineered boat, the captains award for dress and theme, and the infamous Titanic award, given to the boat with the most dramatic sinking.

“There is also a judges bribe award, and entrants can bribe judges for the races,” Casserley said. “All the proceeds, including bribes, go to the Friends of the Thunder Bay National Sanctuary to support activities and events at the sanctuary. The winner of the Thunder Bay Cup goes to the fastest racers, and we have a battle royale free-for-all race after the other races. It’s an all-out race to the finish, and squirt guns are allowed.”

Two other races will be taking place Saturday in conjunction with the Dork Brothers, starting with the Fannie-A Open Water Challenge. This challenge is a 7K open water rowing, kayak and canoe race that begins at the Rotary Island Mill bridge at 8:15 a.m. Registration begins in the morning from 7-8 a.m., and life jackets are required. There will be special awards for overall winners in different age classes, and in each vessel category. The entry fee is $15 per entrant.

“This race is based on a marine event that happened 100 years ago where boats rowed out to save people on the ice,” Green said. “We are very excited about the race and hope to make it an annual event. Entry forms are available online, and the race will start at Rotary Island, go out to the mouth of the river and follow the shoreline to grass island, and back.”

The second race Saturday is the Battle of the Paddles, a 3K paddleboard race starting at the bridge, going to the mouth of the Thunder Bay River, and back. Registration is available from 9-10 a.m., with the race starting at 10:30 a.m. All racers need to bring a paddleboard, single-blade paddle and personal floatation device.

Awards will be given to overall male and female winners, and in each age class. Entry fees are $10 per student and $15 per adult.

“You don’t need to be an experienced paddler for this race,” Green said. “This is the first time we’re having this event and hope it will bring attention to this relatively new sport. Paddleboarding is ideal for this area, and Thunder Bay and the Thunder Bay River are a perfect venue for it.”

Racers can rent a board from several area businesses, and entry forms can be found online at

“All events will be held rain or shine, with proceeds going to the Friends of Thunder Bay,” Green said. “The group supports outreach and education programs at the sanctuary, along with many different events throughout the year.”

For more information about the races, contact Green at 356-8805 ext 10.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.