CRYSTAL LAKE – The Cardboard Cup has a new home. The 30th annual America’s Cardboard Cup Regatta brought more competition, creative ships and epic sinks. The biggest of them all saw defending champions the Old No. 7 capsizing in the final race.
The long-feared Old No. 7 crashed and burned in the championship heat, taking crew mates Eric Marauskas and Scott Verseman down with it.
The weather brought a large turnout to Main Beach in Crystal Lake, many of whom came to see the Old No. 7 defend its title.
The day started with some sinking minions and a 30th Anniversary Cake boat making its away across the finish line.
The boat, manned by husband and wife team Joanne and Christopher Brazas of Hampshire, won its first heat, an added bonus to a day that was already of great importance. The Brazas, wearing matching wedding dress and tuxedo T-shirts, were paddling in an homage to their own 30th wedding anniversary.
The Brazas and their three children have been coming to the regatta for 18 years, winning several trophies that are on display at their home. They had brought two additional boats to race, a Lego boat and the Silver Bullet, all manned by members of the Brazas family.
It was Joanne Brazas’ first time in a boat competing in the racing portion and she was happy when they made across the finish line intact.
“I just wanted to keep from dumping. I did not want to go in that water,” she said.
Brazas joked that she had been banned from being in the boats after an incident 10 years earlier, when she put her foot through her son’s kwiki boat before it even got to the starting line, rendering it unfit for competition.
The Brazas family’s boats made it through the day and they were happy to just enjoy the day at the beach though they did not make the final heat.
The big talk of the day was the rivalry between defending champs the Old No. 7 and last year’s second-place team, the Labemi’s 109 boat. Both teams came out with the intention of taking the title, either again or from the other.
The evening before the regatta, the Labemi’s team lost a dear friend, owner of Labemi’s Ron Yankowitz. The Labemi’s team had hoped to bring home the win for their friend, who they said always had fond memories of the regatta.
“Ron would want everyone to laugh and have a good time and share in a memory or two,” said Labemi’s bar manager Joe Cummings. “We’re not too worried since we definitely have the best crew. We have our second-place trophy still sitting on the mantel behind the bar and we’re hoping to add to it.”
Not too far off from the Labemi’s camp, the Old No. 7’s Murauskas and Verseman sat in anticipation for another go at the cup. Their biggest threat?
“The girls,” said Murauskas, referring to the crew of the Labemi’s 109, Tiffany Burmingham and Chelsea McDougall. (McDougall is a reporter for the Northwest Herald.)
Verseman and Murauskas said that the Labemi’s team would need to qualify in several heats in order to make it to the final, tiring them out a bit. Verseman was also confident that his and Murauskas’ experience would give the Old No. 7 team a leg up.
“Being that we out-age both of them, at least we have the experience,” said 56-year-old Verseman. “They definitely have age on their side.”
At the end of the day, the 30th Anniversary Cake watched the final from the beachside, the Labemi’s 109 got pinned between two boats in a semifinal heat, never seeing the starting line of the final, and the Old No. 7 emerged from the lake, in pieces.
The cup went home with Maddie and Robert Noonan of Wonder Lake aboard the Flash II, first-time champions, but no strangers to the regatta.
First Place: Flash II – Maddie Noonan and Robert Noonan
Kwiki Boat First Place: Soccer Star – Anasticia Wolf and Nora Rhyan
Geezer Cup: Real Old No. 7 – Scott Verseman
People’s Choice: HM Seahag – David Graf
Ugliest Boat: Rowing Dead – Nate Munn, Jack Munn, Cameran Rukas, Charlie Miloni and Avery Munn