Raingutter Boat Racing -

Breathing Life Into Your Boat

Raingutter Boat Racing

Breathing Life Into Your Boat

by Michael Lastufka

Copyright © 1998, 2002, 2004 by Michael Lastufka, All rights reserved worldwide.


Boats fascinate children and adults alike. Whether floating leaves in a puddle or building one to display, perhaps in a bottle, they capture that indomitable spirit of freedom in all of us. We dream of charting our course through raging torrents yet with finesse controlling the surges of our craft. Who can master even a small toy sailboat on open water?

As a race the Regatta is a challenge of control. It is as much a discipline of body and mind as a competition of design and speed. It is a spiritual adventure revealed in the dynamics of the boats and in the understanding of their clashing forces. The experience of building, testing and racing breath-powered boats is timeless. You are at once the captain, crew and the wind! Sail on.

Though constrained to follow a narrow channel the motion and coordination of effort is significant and rich. It is a project that introduces each child to many physical and intellectual skills and the challenge of developing character that culminates in response to the race itself. The following pages attempt to bring out some of this treasure through description, physics and mathematical models. In all, design is emphasized but there is some information on construction and a few experiments.

You may find this resource best used by a team or small class. A parent or teacher will recognize most of the mathematics as high school level or lower. Experiments make use of materials usually found in most homes, with the possible exception of a rain gutter channel and stopwatch.

Solving the many problems of design and construction together, parents share their skills, thought processes and temperament with their children. Ultimately, success is a family concern defined in the process of building each other's lives and attitudes through the activity of the regatta. Indeed, whether a boat wins or not, there need be no loser!

This manual is about the process of developing skills. Skill gives advantage. The process of developing skills produces and exercises character. In these pages, science provides a scaffold and mathematics the mortar to glue concepts together in computable modeled results of the regatta.

Set Your Sail

Setting your sail at the right angle to the wind will keep you on course. Here are a few notes to help you race straight through this manual beginning from the Starting Line or getting your feet wet at the Dry Dock.

This manual is designed to be used by a TEAM; one or more aspiring young regatta boat designers and a parent or leader. At the core of this manual is a detailed mathematical model of a regatta race. All of the results, tips, experiments and design aids are based on the model. You do NOT need to understand the model to use this manual. However, concepts used in the development of the model are accessible to most children and adults at some level, teaching what is needed as you go.

Skipping Stones

Some of you already have a good background in math and physics or just don't have time to float in the current of information at a leisurely pace. Teams that just want the highlights and know how to use a few power tools already, can motor over to the Dry Dock to jump in the "deep end" right away. Teams wanting to develop their understanding more deeply should drift over to the Starting Line, pick a buoy-lined lane and go. You'll learn some practical math and physics as an apprentice nautical engineer.

This manual is one in a series by Lastufka Labs. This material is for personal use only and may NOT be sold or distributed (electronically or otherwise) without written permission from the author. This manual is not available in hardcopy.

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Raingutter Boat Racing -

Breathing Life Into Your Boat

Copyright © 1998 - 2004 Michael Lastufka, All rights reserved worldwide.