Dozens compete in Jamaica High School cardboard boat race

THE COURIER/Photos and videos by Melissa Chan

Dozens of students sat in boats made of cardboard and duct tape and waited to sink or swim.

Spaceships, pirate ships and even Pokemon were among 30 vessels trying their luck in Jamaica High School’s eighth annual cardboard boat race on April 19.

“It’s not as easy as it looks,” said Saudia Hashally, a sophomore at Hillside Arts and Letters Academy.

Hashally said her boat managed to avoid sinking last year­. It just went around in circles, instead.


“We perfected our paddling. We’re going to go in a straight line this year,” she said, standing by her team’s fish-themed cruiser. “Even if we don’t win, we had fun building the boat together.”

Judged on originality, speed and the appearance of their boats, pairs of sailors from seven area schools competed for trophies and bragging rights. They were not allowed to test their vessels until the race began.

Crafts capsized. Sailboats sank. Yet some voyaged to victory across Jamaica High School’s 75-foot-long pool.

In the end, first place went to the Bulldogs from the Humanities and the Arts High school in Cambria Heights. The team said they learned their lesson from last year’s loss and implemented key changes. The five students, two of whom piloted the boat, made their vessel narrower, ditched their paddles and added air chambers for extra buoyancy.

Fifteen rolls of duct tape and three days later, under the guidance of two teachers, they nailed the winning formula.

“I feel great,” said Harry Silva, 15. “We really changed the boat.”

Others left without trophies, but not completely empty-handed.

Jamaica High School’s Hurricanes turned the competition into a science project.

After educator Jeanne Quarto’s Brooklyn home was devastated by Sandy, her students designed their boat with violent storms in mind. They spent four days building a solid ship and hours conducting research on what to do before and after a hurricane, they said.

“It’s very special [to me] that they came up with the idea,” said Quarto, 51, a special education and earth science teacher. “They put so much work and effort on this boat.”

The Queens Courier asked the first place victors what their secret was to keeping their paper boats afloat.

“Pray,” said team leader Adam Abrego. “We just pray.”