AP Physics C Boat Race is Back With a Splash

3 mins read

Photos courtesy of Joseph Vanderway.

During first period on Friday, May 31, students from Joseph Vanderway’s AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism class competed in an intense end-of-the-year boat race at the pool. The tradition was brought by the late former physics teacher Jeff DeCurtins and last took place in 2019 before the pandemic. With the transition to a new AP Physics C curriculum, Vanderway thought this was an apt ending to an otherwise stressful class. He said, “After a very difficult semester of electricity and magnetism for the first time, it seemed like the right time to bring back the cardboard boat event.”

The start of the Flag Challenge.

There were two main events: in the Flag Challenge, teams were challenged to get their cardboard-and-tape contraptions to the end of the pool and back as fast as possible, and in the Crossing Challenge, they raced to be the first to make ten passes within a 20-minute time frame. Each boat was unique and creatively constructed, and the one to two “sailors” inside each steered with homemade paddles or their hands. They were assisted by “dockhands,” who helped direct the boats and turn them around at the other side of the pool.

Vanderway said, “I just told [my students], ‘You can build those.’ The preparation was pretty much up to them. I liked how the crews got creative; I didn’t suggest it, they just did it all on their own.”

In the Flag Challenge, senior Jonah Missan, the sole sailor of the Thousand Sunny boat, quickly broke ahead of his opponents to grab the cardboard flag at the other side of the pool. His dragon-shaped boat took a fast lead, drawing cheers from the packed audience. Missan said, “We spent two weeks building it, worked out of school, and spent a lot of time on the intricate details to make sure that it stays afloat. We just trusted the work.”

Missan at the end of the pool.

Missan and his team, the Straw Hats, snatched first place within an impressive one minute and nine seconds after a head-to-head with senior Caleb Travers toward the finish line, with the rest of the teams comfortably behind. Travers’ boat, the Ultrasonic Raider, was the first to succumb to water damage, followed by The Big Mac, whose sailors had to swim back to land.

Senior Oliver Novak, member of team Four Guys and one of the two sailors in The Big Mac, said, “The problem was that I’m pretty strong on my left and my teammate is not as strong on his right. So when we should be going straight, we were kind of spinning to the right because I’m paddling so hard.”

As soon as the Flag Challenge ended, the Crossing Challenge began. A once-full pool became far more empty as time passed in the 20-minute battle, with most boats falling apart and many sailors capsizing. “I was feeling pretty good [after the first race] because we hadn’t sunk yet, and I was pretty confident that we would continue to do well,” said senior Lillen Montague-Alamin of the Mother Fluxers, whose team donned matching T-shirts.

Novak didn’t share this experience; he said, ”The swim was great, the water was a lot warmer than I thought it would be.”

Vanderway said, “I was surprised at how long the boats stayed afloat in the water based on the design and the structure they had.”

Halfway through the event, three boats remained: the Sea Men’s Boat Daniel II, the Mother Fluxers’ Closed Surface, and the Triple Corrugated Crew’s Working Wavemaker. With the winner of the first challenge sent swimming, it was clear that the final stretch was a test of endurance and not speed. “We had potential to win the distance, but we had some technical difficulties,” reflected Missan.

The Mother Fluxers with their first-place trophy.

Missan explained, “David [my teammate] was really elated that we won, and so when I got back to the other side there was no one to help get me back in the other direction. I lost balance and it tipped over.”

14 minutes in, the Closed Surface had already made 11 passes with no signs of sinking, easily taking the first place prize in the second event. Montague-Alamin, the sailor of the championing ship, said, “One of our game plans was to use a lot of paddles, so that if one of our paddles died, we would have more.”

Vanderway reflected, “I thought the fastest boat was going to run away with the whole thing, and then they capsized. It was cool to see a second boat that was slow and consistent take the other race.”

Allegra Hoddie is a junior in her first year of journalism. She enjoys covering current events and the arts. She also manages the Chronicle's social media accounts, drinks coffee, and copyedits.

Latest from Campus