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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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63 Comments on Make the ultimate raingutter regatta racer

  1. I used these instructions and won first prize in my first race. I sanded, used 5 coats of paint, put stickers on, and then sprayed with polyurethene. Keel, rudder and sails were the same as you said, and I won against 42 scouts, including a couple of catamarans.

  2. this is good. I love it so much.

  3. this better work!

  4. Codydoddydingdong // July 25, 2011 at 9:46 pm // Reply

    I hope this works, my dad helped with my pinewood derby and it looked awesome, a surfboard with a bionical riding it…it looked awesome but it only placed 5th.

  5. liamstar123 // July 23, 2011 at 4:28 pm // Reply

    I am folowinwing the instructtions but am gowing to have to stop at the polyurethane step do you know if we could use it without polyurethane ?

  6. These directions were great! My son took first place in his raingutter regatta race tonight. I think the big difference was inverting the keel and putting it right against the rudder. His boat was not as “tippy” as most of the other boats. Most of the other boats had the keel right under the mast and they tended to be nose heavy.

  7. sorry typo with the marieman

  8. good ideas

  9. The tip really works


  11. My boys and I have followed this guide with a few modifications (mostly to the hull), and my 9yr old son has come in first place every year. My youngest son at 7 yrs old even came in 3rd beating out several older competitors last year. Looking forward to another winning year.

  12. only 15 in my pack no den leader lol hes too lazy

  13. My race is this weekend i hope i can win with my idea and these are pretty good instructions so..GOOD LUCK 856!

  14. thx it will help

  15. 3rd place // May 2, 2011 at 4:18 pm // Reply

    Thanks for the great information my 4yo came in 3rd place in her age group.

  16. We used this design and my son took home the 3rd place trophy last night. We beat one catamaran but not the other (which took home the 1st place trophy). He had a blast! We will definitely be using this design next year!

  17. Excellent info!! // April 21, 2011 at 1:37 pm // Reply

    Followed the directions for last years race and our 2 scouts earned second and third place! It was their first time doing the race. We’re gearing up for this years race and will certainly follow directions again! Thanks so much!

  18. these directions are amazing. without these i would not know what to do at all.

  19. momoftiger // April 17, 2011 at 5:44 pm // Reply

    please help… first year in race and never have done this before. my son really wants to place. any suggestions?????

  20. cool

  21. 2 time champ // April 16, 2011 at 8:38 am // Reply

    i dont know what color?i need

  22. Towmorrow is the race and I’m gonna win!!!!!
    These directions are great!!!

  23. Tyrantking // April 5, 2011 at 8:21 pm // Reply

    Started building the boat at 3 pm, placed 1st at 7 pm. Even took out a catamaran on the way!

  24. Our RGR had a “siblings” category, which was hilarious.
    My Weblos only lost one race- to his sister! She was undefeated!

    We didn’t use the polyurethane (but only because we didn’t have any.) The alterations to the sail made all the difference! Other boats kept running into the sides, or getting caught on the gutters. If you do nothing else- Sand the boat and trim the sail!!

  25. a catameran is way better

    • I agree catamaran is faster. My son would give the single hull boats a 10 second lead then with two puffs win the race.

  26. 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!

  27. that is so cool

  28. 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! :-))

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

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

  31. 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.

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

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

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

  35. 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.

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

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

  38. 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!!!


  40. 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”.

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

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

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

  43. 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.

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

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

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

    My dad says it sould be good.

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

    i hpoe this works! my boats ussually stink.

  48. 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.

  49. its awesome though i won with catamaran desighn

  50. 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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