Saturday 30 April 2005
The Baltimore Harbor was just part of the watery excitement April 30—the morning rain soaked all at the Opening Ceremonies. When the rain tapered off, the harbor filled the moisture gap and provoked even more mayhem than is customary at this sort of event. Several sculptures foundered and one capsized. Thanks to the rain, the mud was far less viscous than usual, resembling a great brown puddle. This year's race featured 28 entries—more than ever before—and in many other ways was the grandest Baltimore race in history. See the photos below, and even videos provided by KineticBaltimore's own Karen Wallace.
Cake on a Lake is a
15th birthday cake for its sponsor, Artex Fine Art Services. The woman with
Baltimore beehive hair popped out of the cake as it navigated alongside the pier
at Canton Waterfront Park. If you need any works of fine art transported, you
will find no other vendor with the People's
Choice award, chosen by the spectators. They also won a cherished ACE
award—a major extra level of technical difficulty few sculptures achieve.
Among the ACE requirements, a sculpture must receive no external assistance
such as pushing in the mud,
and pilots cannot exit the sculpture to fix or propel it. An ACE is a
phenomenal accomplishment for first-time entrants, especially
when their work is as artistic as this.
This 9-seater is known as PLATYPUS. Eight independent bicycle pedal sets
link into a master powertrain,
using gearing so each pilot could pedal at their own personal rate. The
sculpture weighs 3500 pounds with no one on it, and uses an SUV transmission providing 2-wheel-drive low gearing for pavement, and 4-wheel-drive high- and low-gearing for rough terrain.
The Kinetinauts also took advantage of their reverse gear and pedaled forward while facing backwards to
dramatically surge through the sand obstacle in Patterson Park. See the video of Platypus in the mud. PLATYPUS is short for Personal Longrange All-Terrain Yacht Proven Un-Safe.
PLATYPUS is also at home on the water, using pontoons of solid foam wrapped with
duct tape, then painted to match the red and black color scheme. The
sculpture is the work of David Hess (responsible for the playful pooch Louie in
2003 and 2004), and Jason Bennett. PLATYPUS clearly features the most robust engineering
ever seen at the Baltimore race,
but the judges chose to not give it an award for that. Instead, the judges
surprised even the PLATYPUS crew and gave it the Art award. Because it came in the exact middle of the finishers, it also won the East Coast Mediocre Champion
awards and is eligible to go to California to participate in the World Championship Kinetic Sculpture Race.
(See the Kinetic Pilgrimage link on the left menu for photos.) We also hope to see PLATYPUS back in Baltimore next year, perhaps festooned with
Another new concept to hit the Kinetic Sculpture scene in 2005 was Tank o' Fish, an amphibious aquarium. They had all manner of exotic sea creatures contained within. For their visionary design, they won the Pilot's Choice award selected by their fellow Kinetinauts.
Team Miso brought this elegant dragon to the race. Through the mud, its back bounced up and down, and
its tongue darted about. See the video! Miso's flotation
cleverly consisted of an air mattress secured to the chassis, avoiding the
Pontoon Effect* that has been the downfall of so many on these waters.
From the front, the dragon was even more dramatic! While the art is
spectacular, the judges chose to give it the Engineering
award. This award-winning sculpture is available for free to a good home! You
could race it next year as-is, or apply your own design. For more information,
gang of Make Believers converted last year's Cirque de Sore Legs into Westward Ho,
complete with saloon girls, snake oil salesmen, miners, cowboys, and bandits. Not surprisingly, they won the
Best Costumes award. (See also "A more serious note", below.)
The most dramatic action on the high seas occurred when It Cain't entered
the water at Canton. They cast aside the outer hull of their sculpture, which sank into the water, and proceeded in a smaller lifeboat. "It Cain't" is an anagram of "Titanic". For this
maneuver, they won the Golden
Flipper award for most dramatic moment on the water. They also won the Speed Award for coming in first, once
all penalties were accounted for.
Fifi looked a bit
melancholy on the water, even as her pilots sported fashionable waterproof pink boots.
Fifi has long inspired Kinetinauts to build grander sculptures—compare these
photos to those from 2001 to see how her shining example in those early days has
yielded a crowd of delightfully festive entries now. With a nice warm place to dry out and some attention to her right ear,
Fifi will be as good as new for next year.
Throughout the year, if you visit the Visionary Art Museum, you can see Fifi in
her barn awaiting the next race.
Artist Gavin Heck piloted the elephant, rechristening her Topsy's Reincarnation: Bumpo to commemorate the memory of an elephant
electrocuted in 1903 on Coney Island by Thomas Edison as part of a stunt to demonstrate the alleged danger of alternating current. You can read more on the BBC website. Kinetic sculpture pioneer Hobart Brown, who came
to Baltimore for the race, awarded Topsy the Spirit of the
Glorious Founder, partly because a member of her pit crew provided him a white bow tie for which he had great need.
In 2002, there was a sculpture called the Galloping Cow (see the 2002 Gallery) which featured highly suspect engineering and was abandoned by
her creators partway through the race (but then piloted by a series of others to the finish line!) The same folks returned this year, with The Galloping Cow Rides Again.
Less than 10 seconds after the above photo, the cow encountered some balance difficulties.
Its high center of gravity and the wind made it extremely susceptible to the
Pontoon Effect*—even with poetic milk can pontoons. The cow very quickly became the first sculpture in years to flip completely upside down.
After the capsize, they salvaged her and transported her the rest of the race on a pickup truck. She was
destined to win the Golden Dinosaur Award.
Last year's dragon returned, renamed the Ninja Dragon.
It looks a bit like one of the heads is thirsty for a drink. Pontoon locking problems prevented
the Ninja Dragon from
completing the water segment. "Save the sock puppet!" shouted the pilot as she
started sinking; after two tries the pilots gave up and retired to the Bush
League. The Dragon won the Best Bribes award.
returned for a sixth year as pilot of Kinetic Airways and won an ACE award for his robust engineering
(including the spare parts you can see atop the wings). Here he navigates Federal Hill
in the fog and rain at the start of the race. The triangular building under his umbrella is the Baltimore Aquarium. Bob has won three ACE awards and in 2003 took home the Golden Dinosaur Golden Dinosaur for pretzelled his rear whel during the brake test, riding a fractured wheel halfway through the race, and exploding a wheel at a water entry
Rat is back, as Teddy Brack returned from her home in Paris for the race.
This year, she commemorates a member of the French Resistance, Baltimore's Virginia Hall, who was
labeled by German wanted posters as one of the most dangerous of all Allies in
France. You can see that this is a very fierce rat.
The Dumpster Divers returned with last year's Loco de Trash, which finished the race this year.
The Dumpster Divers specialize in making interesting things out of what others
have discarded. To get through the mud, they spent considerable time laying track and
advancing the train section by section. Due to the prolonged rain in the morning, the mud in the afternoon was somewhat soupy and not the viscous menace it had been in previous years. For their questionable "engineering",
Loco de Trash won the Worst Honorable Mention award.
is an 11-foot-long loggerhead sea turtle successful on land and water. Team members Bruce Gugliuzza and his 9-year-old son Logan report they found
or salvaged most of the parts, and spent a total of $5, splurging on new chain links.
This Conestoga Wagon
came from the Carver Center, using components from 2004's Carver Coupe. On land, it was powered by
two Kinetinauts; on the water, one pilot operated both sets of pedals by sitting in the middle with one foot on the medial pedal of each pair. To provide
the ability to pull back on the pedals, the pilot's feet were strapped to the pedals with cable ties.
we see the water entry from the Belt Street Pilots' Association.
While we're all a bit confused about the artistic meaning of this entry, the
sculpture was sound. (That colorful object in the close-up below is their mandatory sock puppet.) See the video from the mud. This sculpture survived the race intact, and is available
for purchase at Second Chance Salvage on Warner Street behind Ravens Stadium. Team captain Mike Peters reports that proceeds from the sale will go toward completing a "big machine" for the 2006 race.
Jimbo Hanson has been a member of pit crew or a pilot every year since Baltimore's first race in 1999. This year he won an unprecedented third ACE award, and also snagged the Sock Creature of the Universe award for his mandatory sock puppet. The rules state that each sculpture must carry at all times a
homemade sock puppet, "made in a home, from a not-too-recently-worn sock from the home, and resemble a creature homemade from a sock."
The trophies this year were fabulous!
From the Golden Flipper in the lower left corner, to the lucite pyramid filled
with little yellow chicks, to the Golden Dinosaur on the right (the gold
dinosaur atop a giant egg atop a bicycle wheel bent like a taco), the awards had
grand flair and were the sort of thing to the place of honor in a Kinetinaut's
home and inspire a return in 2006.
A more serious note:
* What is the Pontoon Effect?
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