The DeVinci Amazing Rowing Machine crewed by 22 people from the North End Action Team (NEAT) put the paddles to the water at The Connecticut River Raft Race and took 1st place in the multiple canoe class.

The Boat Floats, So Now It's Time To Race

By Matthew Engelhardt, Staff Writer

MIDDLETOWN - The first test was successful for the daVinci's "Amazing Rowing Machine" and its rowers as they prepare to race today: the boat floats.

The 28-foot, 700-pound raft holds 22 people and has been a major project of the North End Action Team (NEAT) for the past two years. On Friday, the rowers were able to get the raft in the water, taking a practice run along the Connecticut River in anticipation of today's big event.

The team will compete in the Connecticut River Raft Race, set to begin at 10 a.m. at Gildersleeve Island and end at the Portland Riverside Marina. Like the Amazing Rowing Machine, the participants have crafted all the boats in the race.

The Machine took two years to complete. The daVinci club, a NEAT organization that undertakes such projects, has been working at the Remington Factory on North Main Street to get the raft ready in time.

The raft is made of two long Styrofoam hulls connected with fiberglass and decorated with a sail bearing the NEAT logo. Last year, only one hull was used, and the daVinci club finished the raft just in time for this race.

"This is the first time it has been in the water with both hulls completed," said Izzi Greenberg, NEAT community organizer.

The very kids that carved and crafted it will pilot the boat. Several adults, including Mayor Sebastian Giuliano and Councilman Earle Roberts will join them.

"It looks like fun," Giuliano said as the raft took off down the river. "I get to paddle it tomorrow."

George Frick supervised the kids during their work on the raft, and will be one of the many rowers to take to the water tomorrow. The Middletown raft will be up against others of similar design from throughout the state, and the Machine is ready to take on the competition.

"It's fun," said Steven Kovach, 14, after the initial test run. "We did it last year and I think we've gotten much better at paddling it since then."

The race will take the participants on a 3.6 mile course. Giuliano said he anticipates the ride to take about an hour to complete, and he praised the efforts of the kids and organizers involved in the project.

All proceeds from the race will to charity. According to organizers, it is the "oldest, largest self-supporting raft race in America."

Whatever the outcome, the kids are ready to go, and Frick complimented their enthusiasm.

"It was a challenge," Frick said. "The kids were determined and they finished the boat."

Copyright © 2006, The Middletown Press

MLA citation: Engelhardt, Matthew. "The Boat Floats, So Now It's Time To Race ." The Middletown Press 29 Jul. 2006 Print.

MLA in-text citation: (Engelhardt)