DVIDS – News – Maritime Supplier Operations’ Spinacher cruises to victory at Navy Birthday Cardboard Regatta
Smooth paddling by ‘Popeye’ and ‘Olive Oyl’ propelled the Spinacher to victory at the annual Navy Cardboard Regatta Oct. 11 at the Defense Supply Center Columbus Eagle Eye Golf Course pond. The boat race was hosted by Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime to celebrate the Navy’s 248th birthday.
The unassuming canoe-shaped boat was built by a large team from DLA Maritime Supplier Operations and piloted by Contract Specialists Michael Blaha (Popeye) and Caitlin Ferry (Olive Oyl). It glided easily to victory in both its heats, leaving the rest of the field in its wake.
Eleven teams started the day with high hopes and anticipation that their highly decorated and themed boats made of nothing but cardboard and duct tape would stand up to the challenge ahead: surviving a preliminary heat against two to three boats and if they were lucky enough to stay afloat and come out on top there, a final heat to determine the ultimate winner. Each heat also had the added challenge of ducking a barrage of soft-shelled ‘munitions’ in the form of water balloons thrown from over 100 spectators surrounding the course.
The event, traditionally held on or close to the Navy’s birthday – Oct. 13, 1774 – returned much to everyone’s delight after a four-year hiatus. Similar events like the COVATTA were held in 2020 and 2021 but the last full-sized regatta was in 2019.
This year’s birthday theme was “248 years of Power, Presence and Protection” which highlighted the Navy’s historical and long-standing commitment to being forward deployed, highly trained and dedicated to defending American interests at sea, on land and in the sky.
Unlike a real naval battle, this friendly but fierce competition was preceded by an official kickoff with the National Anthem rendered by DLA Land and Maritime Resolution Specialist Lisa Griffin, welcome remarks by Navy Capt. Dale Haney, and words of encouragement from DLA Land and Maritime Deputy Commander Kenneth Watson. Haney, who is director of DLA Maritime Supplier Operations, also participated in the event in his boat, Navy Not So Navy.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. John King, industrial readiness cell chief for DLA Maritime Customer Operations, served as the event’s master of ceremony. King announced competitors alongside selected theme music as they marched to the water with their cardboard vessels.
The most exciting of the four preliminary heats was when the two Navy boats fielded by the Navy Talent Acquisition Group were neck and neck from the start, with an almost photo finish in which Overboard piloted by Jeremiah Horton and Navy Logistics Spec. 1 Austin Slater, barely edged out their sister boat, Mustache No Mustache piloted by Navy Cmdr. Erik Ross and Navy Cmdr. Patrick Henken. Overboard had a mishap in the final heat literally sending a crew member overboard but he was able to get back into the boat to finish an overall third.
The Spinnaker’s Blaha and Ferry were first time paddlers and said they had practiced briefly in a kayak to get ready for the event.
“We’ve never done this before but heard stories from the past that it was a blast so we were all in,” Blaha said.
“I still can’t believe that we won,” Ferry said. “We hardly took on any water both times. The boat was very sturdy and glided in the water just like a canoe, exactly the way we wanted. No one thought we could do it. No one thought it was going to float.”
It is said that teamwork makes the dream work, which was certainly true of the boat design and building process for the winning team. The boat was fashioned in stages over a period of eight weeks by about a dozen people in the directorate’s office space in Building 20.
“It was probably the best teambuilding experience I’ve had in the entire time I’ve been with DLA,” said Tom Stevens, resolution specialist lead for DLA Maritime Supplier Operations.
The team collectively came up with innovative ideas which translated into great success on the course like shaping the winning entry using cardboard and paper mâché on a real canoe and strategically placing carpet tubes throughout its hull.
“Building the boat was a physical activity that required teamwork skills we aren’t usually able to practice normally,” said Vanesha Marshall-Alls, Post Award branch chief for DLA Maritime Supplier Operations. “Things like building relationships, involvement in DLA culture, and developing initiative.”
That initiative and creativity was as varied as each team’s race strategies and goals for the event.
Some teams had goals of not sinking, others wanted to at least get across the pond once and a few were about going for the gold and winning it all.
The engineers from DLA Land and Maritime’s Operations and Engineering Support Directorate were confident that they would win ultimate bragging rights for the fifth time, with their sleek red and white craft named Hawaii 5 and 0, a designation harkening to the fact that they were undefeated. They were well on their way, easily winning their first heat but they had issues steering and ran aground, losing out to the smooth sailing Spinacher.
The DLA Maritime Customer Operations boat, Red, White and Blup, Blup, Blup piloted by Management and Program Assistant Jody Taylor and Customer Account Specialist Mia Giesler, garnered the Spirit Award for their determination and enthusiasm as they almost made it across the course in their heat capsizing right before the finish line to the dismay and delight of the crowd. Taylor said that winning the award was a proud moment and very surprising because everyone there had so much spirit.
“This was such a great way to celebrate the Navy’s Birthday,” she said. “We hope to be back next year with Red, White and Blup, Blup, Blup II.”
People’s Choice went to the Navy’s USS Swim Call, piloted by Navy Cmdr. Ken Swing and Lt. Cmdr. Thuy Nguyen for their simple and sleek Navy inspired design. Nguyen explained a Swim Call is where Navy ships on long deployments stop in the middle of a calm sea to allow personnel to go swimming in the ocean. There are special boats that provide a shark watch to ensure every Sailor participating has a good time, she added. Swing admitted that he and the other boat builders, Nguyen, Navy Lt. Jr. Grade Andrew Walker and Navy Cmdr. Craig Dziewiatkowski built USS Swim Call on the fly and it organically came together with no real design in mind. The boat also came in an overall distant second to the Spinacher. Swing and Nguyen are both operations officers for DLA Maritime Supplier Operations. Walker is a supply officer and Dziewiatkowski is SCPOC Cell Chief in DLA Maritime Supplier Operations when not building cardboard boats.
“This was the most fun I’ve had at a command event in a long time, and I absolutely loved it,” Swing said.
The DLA Land Supplier Operations FLBB Minnow’s crew, Marybeth Tkac and Ana Young, did not win their heat but made their soggy way across the pond without completely sinking in their blue and green boxy craft, created in just under nine hours. Dressed in ‘handmade’ fish costumes bought at the last minute from Amazon, Tkac said of their attire and boat name, “We are minnows so they can find us under water if we sink.”
When they are not fish, Tkac is a product specialist supervisor and Young is a supervisory inventory management specialist in their non-regatta work lives.
“The longer [the boat] is in the water, the soggier it all becomes,” said Mike Lanning, experienced mariner and DLA Land and Maritime Continuous Process Improvement branch chief. “Everybody gets wet at one time or another.”
Fortunately, the field of boats this year was so strong that no one truly sank into the murky depths never to be seen again. All boats made it to shore one way or another whether it was capsizing near the starting gate (Land Supplier Operations’ Top Gun and the Army’s Army Strong), or capsizing right before the finish (Red, White and Blup Blup Blup).
Lanning’s Bullship III piloted by DLA Land and Maritime Business Process Support Directorate’s Jason Tussing and Ashis Bajgain did not go belly up as in past years, relinquishing the Titanic Award to Navy Not So Navy piloted by Haney, which capsized in the most spectacular fashion throwing him into the drink several times close to the starting line. When they are not deployed on the golf course pond, Tussing is a supervisory continuous process integrator and Bajgain is a demand/supply chain analyst.
Following the championship heat and short awards ceremony where winning teams were given crystallite trophies to mark the occasion, the youngest and oldest Navy personnel in attendance used a scabbard to slice the birthday cake, with the oldest (Haney), handing a piece of cake to the youngest, Navy Lt. Cogan of NTAG.
“I’m so happy they brought this back,” Stevens said. Many of the other participants concurred and are already thinking about their designs for next year.
2023 boats, crews and standings
Boat: USS Swim Call – People’s Choice Award Winner
Paddled by Navy Cmdr. Ken Swing, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Thuy Nguyen
Boat: Army Strong
Paddled by Army Maj. Hocker, Army Maj Perez
Boat: Red, White and Blup Blup Blup – Spirit Award Winner
Paddled by Jody Taylor and Mia Giesler
Representing: Maritime Customer Operations
Heat narrative: Army Strong’s tank shaped boat capsized and its crew floated on its hull to the edge of the pond close to the start. Red, White and Blup, Blup, Blup capsized at the finish and USS Swim Call won the heat and advanced to the final.
Boat: Mustache, No Mustache
Paddled by Navy Cmdr. Erik Moss, Navy Cmdr. Patrick Henken
Paddled by Jeremiah Horton, Navy Logistics Spec. 1 Austin Slater
Heat narrative: Overboard advanced to the final after a close race.
Boat: The Spinacher – Overall 2023 Regatta Champion
Paddled by Caitlin Ferry, Michael Blaha
Representing: Maritime Supplier Operations
Boat: Bullship III
Paddled by Jason Tussing, Ashis Bajgain
Representing: Business Process Support Directorate
Boat: Not So Navy – Titanic Award Winner
Paddled by Navy Capt. Dale Haney
Heat narrative: The Spinacher won the heat handily with their design modeled after a typical canoe. The flat, wide and streamlined boat was built for speed and glided across the pond barely making a splash or leaving a wake. The Bullship III made it with small structural damage but it was just too slow as the outriggers made of carpet tubes got in the way of the paddlers. Not So Navy capsized at the start.
Boat: FLBB Minnow
Paddled by Ana Young, Marybeth Tkac
Representing: Land Supplier Operations
Boat: Top Gun
Paddled by Tim Thurston, Natallie Thurston
Representing: Land Supplier Operations
Boat: Hawaii 5 and 0
Paddled by Tom Morley, Jairus Pam
Representing: Operations and Engineering Support Directorate
Heat narrative: Hawaii 5 and 0 won easily by the test lab with their zig zagging strategy thwarting all comers as they blocked most avenues for passing. Top Gun never made it out of the gate as its slim design caused it to capsize multiple times and didn’t make it much past the start. FLBB Minnow plugged along strong and steady like a turtle and even though they were taking on water, eventually made it to the finish line.
Championship heat narrative: After some bumping by other boats at the start, the Spinacher pulled ahead of the field and easily won the heat. Hawaii 5 and 0 bowed out early and did not finish, USS Swim Call came in second and Overboard after having a mid-race mishap finished third.
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