I am “admiring” what’s left of a little ice on the back deck as I type this, making it a little odd to be considering a fun summertime event like the Raingutter Regatta, but I am willing to do just about anything to get into a warmer state of mind.
My sons have now participated in a total of 8 consecutive Regatta’s, and as leadership and technology has changed, so have the races. Try as I have to research the history of this fun family event, I am coming up with absolutely no record of when or where these races started. I like to daydream about Robert Baden-Powell thinking back fondly on his childhood, picnicking on the shores of the River Thames watching the Henley Royal Regatta with his family, and wanting to share that excitement with the young Scouts in his care. Having those 8 consecutive Regatta’s under our belt, I can attest that it truly is an exciting event that our Scouts look forward to each summer.
Where this isn’t necessarily just a summertime event, it certainly is more convenient to host your Regatta in the warmer months and outdoors. Water + Scouts = Wet Scouts and every other surface in the general vicinity. Not to mention, it makes for a great opportunity to get together on those off months and can help your Pack and Scouts earn the National Summertime Pack Award.
We schedule our big Regatta for July, bookended by a Family Picnic in June and our big Scout Year Kickoff (with popcorn fundraiser details, the Game Truck, and Cubmobile Racing) in August.
Keep it simple, make it fun! Right? Right! The basics of a great Raingutter Regatta are tracks, boats, rules, straws, water, and awards. What I love about this event is that there aren’t a set of official rules out there, so it’s up to each unit to decide what works best for them and their own Scouts, and is fun for children of all abilities.
Traditionally, and as the name implies, the race takes place in water-filled raingutters. We found two very old and warped raingutters in our Pack shed the first year we coordinated the race, and at the 11th hour no less. It made for a difficult set-up, but eventually we found a way to balance the raingutters and fill them with water, the weight of which helped with the warping. If you choose to go with the traditional raingutters, I highly suggest a vinyl, flat-bottomed product that can be easily cut to length, then capped and sealed if necessary. You will need two to run a race for a smaller unit, 4 in total if you have a tremendous amount of Scouts.
Alternatively, and preferably, you can purchase official BSA Inflatable Raceways online or at your local Scout Shop. The raceways are about 10 feet long, requiring two 6 foot tables placed end-to-end for support. One track includes two lanes and is great for a smaller unit, but if you have a lot of Scouts I suggest picking up two for a total of 4 lanes. They hold about 4 gallons of water in each lane, but you’ll want to have extra water on hand in case a Scout leans against and collapses the vinyl. You will also want a pump of some sort; take it from me, you don’t want to manually fill one of these with your own two lungs.
There are two great options when it comes to building your boats for the big race. Traditionalists purchase the official Raingutter Regatta Racing Trimaran Kit online or from their local Scout Shop. These kits cost around $6 each and have everything a Scout needs to build a beautiful boat. They are built to fit a raingutter track lane and can be customized with cool decals like a Pinewood Derby car.
A fun and thrifty alternative is to make yours a Recycled Raingutter Regatta. Provide your Scout families with boat specs and encourage them to raid their recycling bin for fun boat materials. To suit the inflatable tracks, we require that our boats are no more than 3″ wide and 10″ long and that they are built to be powered entirely by the child’s own breath. We don’t allow the official kits to be raced along with the recycled boats.
Try to remember that the Regatta isn’t your annual Pinewood Derby. It’s definitely worthy of a lot of great planning, but it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Keep the rules simple and fair, saving yourself a lot of frustration on race day. Ours go a little something like this:
What are the rules? Each boat will be powered by each child’s own breath. Straws will be provided. The only time hands can be used is to right an overturned vessel. Captains who use their hands to move their boat along will be disqualified and the competing Captain will be declared the winner of that race. Vessels will be sailed in pairs based on age. Siblings will sail along with registered Scouts as part of the competition – there will not be a separate siblings race.
Who builds the boat and what are the specs? This is a family project! Please give your child the opportunity to build their boat with your guidance and support. Boats need to fit in the racing lane, therefore they cannot be wider than 3″ or longer than 10″. Raid your recycling for materials – if it can float, it’s a boat.
What isn’t allowed? BSA Raingutter Regatta boat kits. A Scout is thrifty – using recycled materials aligns with this point of the Scout Law and helps us to be conservation minded. We love recycling, but we don’t allow boats to be reused year-to-year. Please don’t make a craft from paper or styrofoam!
Yeah. That’s it.
Some units choose to make things a little more competitive, and that’s fine. You can Google “Raingutter Regatta Rules” and find page after page of PDFs and articles written about rules that get down to the tiniest of details.
Straws and Water
In the spirit of being conservation-minded and running a Recycled Regatta, we switched over to paper straws in the last year. We used plastic bendy straws in years past and where they work like a total charm, we wanted to be able to recycle what we could and lead by example. There are drawbacks to paper straws, of course, primarily that the Regatta involves lots and lots of water and paper straws fall apart after a while. We make sure each child has their own straw, we ask that they Do Their Best not to chew on them in between heats and that they don’t intentionally dip them into the water.
If you’re using the inflatable tracks, you will need 4 gallons of water for each lane, and again I suggest that you have plenty of water on hand to refill tracks when a racer inadvertently (or intentionally) presses on the side and empties a lane.
The best part, in my opinion, is the awards. Decide early what kind of awards you want to present to your winners.
Do you want certificates for appearances, first, second, and third place? I love and highly suggest visiting TheMormonHome.com and printing their beautiful, FREE certificates that cover everything from ranked placement to appearance awards like “Least Likely to Capsize” and “Most Ready to Sail the Seven Seas.”
Do you want official, engravable trophies for your rank placements? Crown Awards has great options for around $8 that your Scout (or their sibling) would be thrilled to display along with their boat.
What about medals that can be worn around their neck? The Scout Shop has beautiful options available for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place (around $4 each), and you can find a set of all three on the All Quality Amazon shop for a total of $11.00 (we use these for our Pinewood Derby appearance awards and are always impressed by the quality). You can also pick-up sweet participation ribbons from the Scout Shop, which come in packs of 10 for $7.00.
Perhaps you’re feeling creative and want to make your own! Hit your local Dollar Store and find fun items you can put together to build interesting and fun awards, like the ones we made for our 2019 races. The wooden fleur de lis came from Michael’s Crafts, the ribbons were found in the hand-me-down stash of Scouting stuff I inherited from the leaders that came before me, and the rest was from the Dollar Store.
Look Wider Still
Look wide, and even when you think you are looking wide – look wider still.-Lord Robert Baden-Powell
So you have the basics all checked off (you’ve looked wide) and are ready to make this regatta a beloved Pack tradition (and want to look wider still)! There are a few things you can do that take this special race to the next level and make it a memorable event that brings families out of the woodwork on those beautiful summer evenings.
Pack 521 is proud to Scout alongside of countless wonderful local units. It’s a true joy for us to have a great relationship with one Pack in particular that we’ve fostered over several years of joint events and celebrations. We use our Raingutter Regatta as an opportunity to hang out with our friends in this other Pack, and they kicked off a friendly competition between us that ends with the winner taking home the Golden Gnome and a years worth of bragging rights.
This other unit knows exactly who they are, and if you guys are reading this, WE LOVE YOU!
Ours came from a local garden center, but you can find a cute, reasonably priced Gnome on Amazon. Simply spray paint him gold and you’re ready to challenge a neighboring Pack! Want to get a little crazy? You can offer up a coveted Big Foot “Schlepping Gnomes” garden statute for around $60… I simply couldn’t resist including him in the post because he screams Leave No Trace, is obviously Jewish, and I’m not sure how else he could ever be used. The backside view is just too much! Maybe your Pack has a tie to other creatures? A garden ornament of any kind would make for a truly Golden Opportunity. 🥁 Ba-dum-chh.
Another way to amp up your event is to make it a fun outdoor movie night! A family in our Pack already has the gear for a great outdoor theater, from the sound system and projector to the dvd-player and screen. You can find a combo projector and screen combo (with lots of great ratings) on Amazon. Here’s a great article from HowToGeek.com about the tech behind an outdoor movie night.
Once you get all the tech stuff figured out, start thinking about the kind of movie you want to watch. We’ve played Muppet Treasure Island and Pirates of the Caribbean in the past, and both have gone over well. Other great options are Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, Shark Tale, and The Little Mermaid.
If you’re going for a movie night, it only makes sense to have popcorn and other concessions. Go online or ask around to see what businesses (oftentimes banks) have FREE popcorn machines available for use by nonprofits, charities, or civic organizations. Shout out to Village Bank!
Provide water and lemonade, but also put together a small concessions stand where kids can use tickets to “buy” boxes of candy or extra drinks. Maybe pull out the grills and serve up hotdogs and potato chips!
Invites and Brackets
I’ve talked in depth about how to use Sign-Up Genius and Evite to build and track your Pack events. The Raingutter Regatta is no exception, especially if you’re planning on co-hosting the event with another unit. Create an Evite invitation with your regatta rules and expectations, then create a link that you share via ScoutBook email or social media. This will help you to plan for the right amount of straws, treats, and other materials. Knowing the number of participants will also help you to prepare for your bracket building the day of the race.
We normally have upward of 60 children participating in our annual race, which includes both Scouts and their siblings from two different units, so we use a dual-sided bracket for our event. FreeBracketGenerator.com has an easy to use template that allows you to create and print a FREE blank bracket to your own specifications. This is what our 2019 bracket looked like.
Smaller units might opt for a round robin style race, which allows for each child to race every other child at least once. Challonge.com has several templates available for you to use, which can be used electronically OR printed and manually filled.
Running A Race
First and foremost, kick off your race with an opening ceremony. Invite Scouts from both units to work together to perform a flag ceremony. Remind everyone that this is a fun race built around the 12 Points of the Scout Law. Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
We run a bracket style race. I printed a blank copy of our bracket and brought it along to the race. We always start our race with a list of children who had RSVP’d through our Evite. We register our racers for the event by marking them off of the list, noting the name of their boat, taking down their age or Cub Scout rank, and providing them with their straw. We use the registration list to fill the far ends of the bracket, creating pairs of children based on age or rank, one from each unit. Each side of the bracket represents an inflatable track… we use two tracks because we have so many participants that it would take a significant amount of time for everyone to race on one single track. Make sure you balance your bracket as you go, keeping equal numbers of participants on each side so each track has boats racing on it.
Each of our tracks have two volunteers, one from each unit and at each end of the track, to ensure a fair race. As Cubmaster, I find that I’m automatically the event emcee, so having those extra eyes on the race will help keep kids in check. Those volunteers will also confirm with you who won each heat so you can maintain an accurate bracket.
At the end of your bracket races, hand out certificates and/or awards! If you have a Golden Gnome, or something similar, award it to the Pack your first place racer belongs to. Scout handshakes all around, and of course, a group photo are a given. If your Pack doesn’t win the Golden Gnome, throw down a challenge and create an opportunity to win it and build upon your relationship with the other unit. This is, afterall, what a joint event is all about.
So, How’d It Go?
How do you run your Raingutter Regatta? What tips would you share with new coordinators about running a smooth race, or working with other local units? Did you try any of my suggestions or the products mentioned above? What did you think? Let me know everything in the comments, and please don’t forget to like and share this post, and follow me here on Look Wider Still.
Yours in Scouting,
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