ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Zach Newell of the Marblehead Rotary Club paddles his team’s boat to shore to take the win in the Duct Tape Regatta on Saturday.
By MATT DEMIRS
SWAMPSCOTT — It resembled a regular kayak race through the fog at Swampscott Harborfest, but as the participants paddled onto shore, you could see what these handcrafted boats were really made of: duct tape.
Hundreds gathered at Fisherman’s Beach Saturday to enjoy a variety of family friendly events including fishing demos, dance jams at the YMCA, pirate ship stories, and an event many enjoyed: the Duct Tape Regatta hosted by the Duct Tape Regatta.
Entry fees and donations for the Regatta went to the Barka Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing sustainable development in Burkina Faso, Africa, through clean water initiatives, education, empowering women, and climate mitigation strategies.
The annual event has taken place for more than 15 years and has raised more than $100,000 for clean water projects overseas for the Barka Foundation, through the past five years as beneficiaries.
Esu Anahata, director and co-founder of the Barka Foundation, said the fun-filled event brings the community together for a greater cause that unites the North Shore with the rest of the world.
“This is like a model for how we become a global village,” he said. “We’re just a vehicle to provide assistance in these villages, the people here are the ones who really make it happen.”
Each team is encouraged to raise $400 to enter the race. Many of the boats are made of just cardboard and duct tape, meaning one missed measurement means man overboard.
“We have had a really wonderful relationship in which we developed over the years with the people and organizations on the North Shore,” Anahata said. “Marblehead, Swampscott, other rotary clubs of the area, as well as the high schools.”
This year’s winners were a group of men from Marblehead Rotary Club, who gave a lot of the credit to the man who made the boat: Marblehead Rotarian Carl Siegel.
At 84 years old, Siegel is not only the treasurer of the Marblehead Rotary Club, but the oldest active member.
The boat, which was carried away still intact, does leak a little, said Siegel, but will be able to make it another year, unlike some of the others, who walked away soaked with their duct-tape disasters.
Chuck Bachner hailed from the Midwest to join the team and bring home the trophy after competing in the event annually.
“It’s a fun competition for a wonderful cause,” he said.
Siegel said he spent years building the boat, but was glad to do so to see all the fun everyone is having.
The friendly spirit of competition carried over to the other side of the pier too, as Salem’s Crossfit Ironspider Gym held open water races for participants as part of the B&S Open water Swim series.
The Swampscott Yacht Club hosted a BBQ lunch, harbor tours, and kids activities, as well as a lobster bake later in the day.
Jen Burrall, of Stow, Maine, came down for the day to visit her friend and decided to pop in on the day’s festivities with her son, Devin.
Despite fog and slight rain, Burrall made the best of the day like many families flocking to the event.
“The Duct Tape Regatta was pretty entertaining and quite inventive.” she said, “We’re probably going to go check out the pirate bounce house next. It’s nice having so many families here.”
Matt Demirs can be reached at [email protected]