Southampton chief defeats Riverhead's leader in annual cardboard boat race

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, right, races against Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, right, races against Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, left, during the 5th annual Great Riverhead Cardboard Boat race Sunday afternoon on the Peconic River on June 29, 2014. Throne-Holst outraced Walter in their cardboard boats. Photo Credit: James Carbone

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In the fifth annual battle of the cardboard boats Sunday, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst held onto an early lead to score a victory over her perpetual rival, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter.

The two supervisors have traded victories in their annual nautical showdown on the Peconic River. Throne-Holst's record is now 3-2.

"It was the superior boat design," Throne-Holst said as she sat on a bulkhead after her victory. She credited her friends Barbara and Rob Merker of Flanders for designing her vessel.

Walter blamed his loss in part on fatigue, saying he was "a little tired" after scaling the Pulaski Street water tower at an event last Wednesday.

"Don't worry, there's always next year," Walter said. "I'm going to build a better boat."

Spectators crowded the river's edge to watch the paddling politicians, and dozens of other participants who splashed their way through several other races in the afternoon.

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The competitors set off from a dock in canoe-like boats made of cardboard, duct tape and paint, then paddled around a buoy several hundred feet down the river and back. Riverhead Town hosts the annual event, which started in 2010.

Some vessels fared better than others. Matt Van Glad's boat, crafted to look like an "eastern wood duck," sank at the starting line.

"It's about bringing family together," Van Glad, an oil truck driver from Riverhead, said of the event. He was in good spirits even as he crawled back onto the dock sopping wet. "It kind of brings everybody together at the start of the summer."

Eddie Densieski, one of the organizers, said the race draws attention to downtown Riverhead and gets "families working together, building something as a family instead of watching TV or playing on electronic gizmos."

Speed isn't the only way to win. Judges award trophies for design, creativity and captainship.

Andrea Rasso, a Miller Place math teacher whose boat was a detailed replica of the Big Duck in Flanders, won a prize for "best theme."

"It was 30 rolls of white duct tape alone," said Rasso, who lives in Patchogue.

Pointing to the duck's face, she said, "I just had to make sure I got those cheeks."

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