Cardboard Boat Race 2019

A record year for the Cardboard Boat Race on  Saturday 14th September 2019!

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ (IMechE) 8th annual Plymouth Cardboard Boat Race was held on Saturday at Commercial Wharf on the Barbican It has been over nine months in the Making and engaged over 400 children and young people in some 20 workshops in schools and community halls across Plymouth and SW Devon.

The aim of the race is simple, build a boat from cardboard that will take a human crew around our course in the quickest time! Using only cardboard, tape, wood glue, varnish or paint, the teams had the option of pre-building their own awesome craft or build their race winning creation on the day. With a team of up to six people, they must design, draw, measure, cut, glue, tape and paint, to produce a watertight cardboard race winning canoe that will carry a crew of at least two, around the 200m course using only paddle power.

This year’s race, in association with PDSSA (Plymouth & Devon Schools Sailing Association), also included interactive stands displaying a wide variety of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) challenges, from organisations such as Royal Institute of Naval Architects and Institution of Marine Engineering Science and Technology, the Royal Navy, UTC Plymouth and City College Plymouth.

Primary and Secondary schools have been busy for weeks building their pre-built craft, with the help of our partner, Wonder Workshops. With a little more time to perfect their designs and waterproofing technique, expect great things from this category. The event was the biggest ever held with 53 teams taking part throughout the day. The course was different this year due to the update works on the Mayflower Steps so the teams had a longer course featuring a turn. This proved challenging for many competitors with many not making it to the finish line before sinking or capsizing - fortunately the safety boat was close at hand!

The IMechE Committee entered two boats and the Chair, Nathan, took a dip as their Design Competition winner, Dragon Boat proved too unstable.

The winners were:

Pre-build Primary:

1st - Orca Ducks (6 minutes 38 seconds)

2nd - Salisbury Sharks (6 minutes 48 seconds)

3rd - Ohana (7 minutes 15 seconds)

3rd - Mount Wise Racers (7 minutes 15 seconds)

Pre-build Secondary:

1st - TVS Betsy (220m)

2nd - TVS Noah’s Ark (120m)

3rd - UTC Plymouth 3 (40m)

Pre-build Public:

1st - The Show Must Go On (5 minutes 14 seconds)

2nd - Anchor Management (6 minutes 1 second)

Pre-build Cross Category Prizes

Best Fancy Dress - HMS HVS

Best Sinking - UTC Plymouth 1

Perseverance Award - VRPS Racers

Most Innovative - Peregrine

Build on the Day

1st - The Hopeful Puffin (4 minutes 5 seconds)

2nd - Team Lead Weight (4 minutes 12 seconds)

3rd - Plymouth College Pirates (4 minutes 18 seconds)

Best Fancy Dress - Saltash B

Best Sinking - HMS Sea Badger

Perseverance Award - The Ku-Kuis

Most Innovative - Friendship

Helen Timpson, Cardboard Boat Race Coordinator, said:

“This competition is a fantastic opportunity for people to test their creativity and imagination. It promotes the benefits and achievements of the engineering profession and supports the education of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) in local schools and colleges.

“This race would not be possible without our partners PDSSA and Wonder Workshops, our sponsors Plymouth City Council, Babcock International, DS Smith, MacFarlane Packaging, Wood Group and Brandon Hire, or our wonderful volunteers who work so hard to make sure everyone has a fantastic time. Thank you all so much for your continued support.”


Councillor Jon Taylor, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills said:

“We need more people to get involved with science, technology engineering and maths and gain the skills needed to help our city grow.

“Over half of the jobs in our city are based in STEM and we’re working with employers and schools to make sure our kids are equipped to have successful and fulfilling careers in the sector.


“I can’t think of a better way to get people excited about STEM than racing around in homemade boats and having fun on the water!”

A competitor said:

“My son has not stopped talking about the event since Saturday and has excitedly taken his trophy in to school for show and tell. Events like that make you feel proud to be part of the mechanical engineering institution. I’d probably be telling a different story if we’d capsized! Thank you for advice and encouraging us to enter.”

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© 2011 Institution of Mechanical Engineers. IMechE is a registered charity in England and Wales number 206882