It will be anchors aweigh come July 4 at the Lake Willastein in Maumelle as the fifth annual Cardboard Boat Race, themed “The Spirit of ‘76” gets underway, pitting seafaring landlubbers of all description against one another in an attempt to answer the age old question: If it looks like a boat will it float like a boat or will it sink like cardboard?


The answer, according to Roy Andrews, a senior project manager with the construction firm, Baldwin & Shell, and past president of the Maumelle Area Chamber of Commerce and fifth year entrant to the boat race – in the same boat entered the past four years – is, “that depends.”


What that depends on, Andrews told about a dozen would-be skippers at an organizational meeting in mid-June at the Maumelle Area Chamber of Commerce office, is largely a combination of the materials used and how they are used, as well as the preparation taken beforehand. As for materials, Andrews said, all cardboard is not created equal.


“There is cardboard that has been treated so it is water resistant,” he said. “But you can also find cardboard that, as soon as it gets wet, it totally delaminates and begins to fall apart. Obviously, that is not the cardboard you want.”


Anderson and Alicia Gillen, the chamber executive director, described various types of boats they have seen over the years, different levels of technical prowess, and different design themes.


“We’ve had some that were decorated really well,” Anderson said. “One guy built kind of a yellow submarine, got some speakers, and played the song as he rowed across. A couple of years ago, we had someone who literally grabbed a couple of pieces of cardboard that morning, came down, and built a boat.”


Prospective boat captains were advised that only cardboard may be used in the construction of the main body of the craft, with single stage adhesives and duct tape allowable for joining seams. Waterproofing may be done with a single stage waterproofing compound or paint, and all materials used must be environmentally friendly. Upon completion of the races, all boats and debris must be removed from the lake.


Among construction no-no’s: flex tape, screws, metal, or Styrofoam. To ensure compliance, metal detectors and icepicks will be used to randomly test watercraft.


On the other hand, layering and waxing cardboard is allowed for waterproofing, liquid nails and duct tape may be used to join and reinforce seams, and oars or rudders, because they are not structural, may be made of other materials than cardboard.


Modeled off of the world famous Heber Springs Cardboard Boat Race, which is now in its 31st year, officials from Maumelle went to Heber Springs for help in starting up the cardboard boat races in Maumelle.


“Heber Springs has a world class boat race that has even been covered by ESPN,” said Gillen. “They had been doing it for over 20 years and they were so helpful and excited for us.”


Races will be run in three divisions; corporate, family, and youth, with awards presented for “Fastest of the Fleet” in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places, “Sinking with Style,” “Floating with Flair,” and “Team Spirit.” Check-in for the race is from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. and the race begins at 5:30. Awards will be given out at the Bunker Stage at 7 p.m.


The Sprit of ’76 Cardboard Boat Race is hosted by the Maumelle Area Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the Lee Tuxhorn and Anthony Otwell State Farm Insurance Agencies.