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Make the ultimate raingutter regatta racer

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.

A winning raingutter racer stays on an even keel, moves in a straight line, keeps the bow above water and does not drag.

If your boat does all this, it finishes ahead of any boat that can’t. Here’s how to build your winner.


  • Regatta Kit (BSA Supply No. 17090, $3.99,
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Scissors
  • Polyurethane
  • Paintbrush
  • Superglue
  • Spray paint (optional)
  • Adult permission and/or supervision


step1.jpgStep 1: Sand the balsa wood hull’s sides and bottom until smooth.

step2.jpgStep 2: Put the mast in, and bend back the mast to “rake” it a little. Take the mast out for now.

step3.jpgStep 3: Seal the hull, using two coats of polyurethane, then sand it smooth.

step4.jpgStep 4: Add the keel and the rudder. Put both on the centerline and at right angles to the bottom of the hull. Put the keel on as far back as you can, just ahead of the rudder.

step5.jpgStep 5: Glue the keel’s narrow edge next to the hull and the angled edge forward. This makes your boat harder to tip and quicker to right.

step6.jpgStep 6: If you paint the boat, keep it simple — spray paint works fine. Three thin coats make an attractive finish. Attach the mast after painting.

step7.jpgStep 7: Trim 1/4 inch off the top and 3/4 inch off the bottom of the sail. Cut a new bottom hole 1/2 inch above the old one. Clip off the bottom corners so they can’t snag the gutter.

step8.jpgStep 8: To keep the sail above the gutter, attach it so that the bottom is 1 1/2 inches above the deck. Glue the sail to the mast so that it can’t move. Attach the sail at right angles to the centerline.


No matter how well you make your boat, victory demands a skilled captain. An even wind, for instance, moves the boat faster than do frantic puffs.

Practice long, steady breaths. Your breath should hit the sail directly behind the sail and just below the center.

no.jpgIf you’re too high, blowing downward, you will force the bow down, slowing the boat. You’ll blow your chance to win.

yes.jpgPosition yourself so that you are blowing from behind the boat and slightly up, using a gentle, steady breath.

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32 Comments on Make the ultimate raingutter regatta racer

  1. CHicago Scout // January 31, 2011 at 2:35 am // Reply

    Awsome tips. We put the polyurethane on after painting but it didnt matter 3rd in pack and 2nd in group 90 kids total. Trimming and Glueing the mast is the most important step. Thanks a ton!

  2. that is so cool

  3. I have found that the “skins” for the pinewood cars, as an alternative to paint, create an awesome and smooth look to the boat. Also reduces resistance in the water. fast, effective, and very eye catching. (top 2 finish 3 yrs in a row! :-))

  4. I like this idea better than others. Bye, thanks for the tips.

  5. these plans do work. son took 1st in den and 2nd in pack.

  6. take tips from your mom,dad,den leader,and fellow scouts.and make your boat as light as posible.getting fansy will just make it wegh more.

  7. AWESOME! My son won it all tonite! UNDEFEATED! 🙂 He’s so happy! Thanks for the tips!

  8. I sanded my boat like a smooth L. should I do this or should I make it into a regular L?

  9. lol… iv won the race for the 3rd time now

  10. Paint your boat, polyurethane with two coats and finish with Turtle Wax for the ultimate finish and waterproofing. My son’s boats really fly through the water.

  11. subject:dad
    i’m going to try your idea

  12. What tool should I use to make the grooves for rudder and keel; how deep?

  13. My son used this design and won first place in our pack’s regatta. Last year we used the instructions that came with the kit and he was eliminated very early in the competition. Thank you!!!


  15. justanotherDad // November 6, 2010 at 10:26 pm // Reply

    Since I’m unsure of my Pack’s exact rules, I’m intentionally resisting these “winning” designs because I don’t want to be “that Dad”.

  16. cheater hater // November 2, 2010 at 2:14 pm // Reply

    listen kids this is not legal in all derby’s check ur rules first.

  17. Spraying the bottom with WD-40 is a good alternative to polyurethane. Same water repelling effect.

  18. And, now… for MORE SPEED? This was our first year in the regatta. The upside down keel is an awesome idea. We screwed up on gluing of the rudder and put it on upside down too, which turned out to lower the drag and boost speed. But first we carved a 1/8″ groove from the bow to the stern, like the Louisiana Bayou speed boats I grew up with. That along with creasing and fixing the sail to the boat (catamaran style), and it flew down the gutter at 3-4 times the speed of the other boats. The fixed sail actually forces the air (we got this from having to do 400 of the Boy’s Life anemometers at family camp) down and back, providing an added boost even greater than a catamaran because the air can travel over the the center of the top of the boat (with a catamaran it just goes into the water via the gap between the hulls). Some parents complained and we were disqualified in the middle of the race for not using (or needing) a 6.5″ mast. My son was crushed. So much for good ideas… be careful on doing too much and becoming a target. Next year we’ll ad a mast/flag pole, but sand it thin to avoid drag.

    • sounds like your style was catamaran / hydrafoil: both which are styles not allowed in the raingutter regatta because of the unfair competitive advantage. suprised they let you race without the required 6.5 inch mast. love your design specs though. sorry about the disqualification better luck next year to you both, I’m sure you’ll do fine with your knowledge and tips.

  19. cool my dad wont stop sanding it please help i want to win first place help me i won the race

  20. Both my kids used this design and each took first in their age groups. Thanks a lot for the info.

  21. awesomeness // October 6, 2010 at 7:12 pm // Reply

    My dad says it sould be good.

  22. awesomeness // October 6, 2010 at 7:09 pm // Reply

    i hpoe this works! my boats ussually stink.

  23. Our pack doesn’t use the kits. My son got a piece of wood that wasn’t even cut straight, a block of wood that is splintered, 4 nails and a foam plate. Hopefully we can make something that will at least float. I don’t push winning. As long as he has fun, learns something and enjoys the time spent with his mom is all I look for.

  24. its awesome though i won with catamaran desighn

  25. I hope this works, it is Saturday (the day of the race) and it is about 5 hours till the race. (3 hours later) I just finished my homework. Then I realize, DANG! I haven’t made my boat yet! I hope I can make this in two hours, I built a cool design with a dremel and sandpaper. I got all the supplies and these awesome instructions! I hope I can win a least 3rd place.

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