PLEASANT HILL -- It was (recyclable cardboard-and-duct-tape) "anchors aweigh!" at the Pleasant Hill Derby Day, and last years' champions were stoked.

"Hot Dog Speeder" featured a mid-hull stabilizer, triangular-shaped oars, "Duck" brand duct tape, and the seasoned expertise of its creators, 9-year-old Taylor Radding, of Pleasant Hill, and Toby Radding, 10, of Anthem, Ariz.

"They're pretty much expert cardboard boat builders," said Gene Radding, Toby's father and Taylor's grandfather, at the July 25 races at Pleasant Hill Aquatic Park.

But this was a day for sailing, not genealogy, and Taylor predicted she and Toby would do as well as they had last year, when "Cheese Boat" took them to the finish line.

Just ten feet away, other skiffs vied for attention.

Pleasant Hill resident Mercedes Bierola worried her three-layer-bottomed "Patriotic Boat" wouldn't float. "I think we're going to sink," Bierola said.

Her 6-year-old son, Alfredo Fernandez, was oblivious to his mother's prediction, proudly showing off the American flag, red-white-and-blue duct tape, cardboard anchor and captain's wheel adorning the vessel.

Connor Couture, 14, from Bay Point, said he'd applied latex paint from a re-use store in Pacheco to waterproof his team's "Flame."

Walnut Creek rowers Anastasia Seaway, 12, and Tyler Bonde, 13, ditched their 2013 design and went sleek, with "Ta Da," a surfboard.


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"Last year, ours sank when we got three-quarters of the way across. We had to kick it to the finish," said Anastasia, agreeing that, considering her last name, how could she give up? The team hoped cardboard with air pockets and sturdy, new-dishwasher-packaging oars would lead to more success.

"The Washer's" main sculler shouted, "Mom! We're missing a paddle," and "Bubble Boat" was made buoyant by bubble wrap and empty kitty litter containers -- not to mention the scrappy physicality of its coxswain, Ellie Stephens, 6.

"Titanic," its crew temporarily delayed in the snack bar line, waited for the first heat. Completing the fleet, the "Adventure Kids Summer Camp Boat" presented an intimidating girth, with empty water bottles and flying molded foam buttresses flanking the sides and extending the prow.

The first heat had the unfortunately named "Titanic" in trouble early on, but the crew was helped by a lifeguard. Followed by a tie in the next heat, the third race revealed the camp team's boat had steering issues, and the fourth race had "Flame" capsizing and changing its name to "Submarine" as an underwater route became the only way to complete the pool crossing.

After the first round, seaworthy crafts had a second go. This time, "Patriotic" went down immediately, "Camp" limped to finish, "Hot Dog Speeder" cruised to easy victory, and "Bubble Boat," with solo oarsman Ellie abandoning her bright yellow paddles to dog paddle instead, finished in fine form, earning boisterous applause from the crowd.

The sailors -- all winners -- received certificates and permission to keep for posterity or "abandon ships" into a dumpster for recycling. Derby Day was over, landlubbers and expert shipbuilders lamented -- but come next July, expect engineering skills and youthful bravado to once again set sail.

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