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Saturday 2 May 2009
What a great day to be in Baltimore! The eleventh annual East Coast Championship Kinetic Sculpture Race was a resounding success, with no shortage of spectacular sights, high-speed chases, and catastrophic breakdowns. The Dumpster Divers provided drama at the water entry with a crowd-pleasing rolling capsize. The Mud Doctor volunteers outdid themselves by creating the most challenging adhesive pit in Baltimore race history that sucked shoes off pit crew and stopped racers in their tracks. Spectators lined the streets of the 13-mile racecourse to see the amphibious human-powered works of art fly by.
Here are the highlights.
The Champion: Goin’ Griswold
Happily Never After
This gothic rendition of the Cinderella fairy tale won the prestigious Art award, and wowed the crowd along the entire course. Before the start, Happily Never After was fashioned as a giant pumpkin, until a Fairy Gothmother used her magic wand and transformed into a coach with two black horses with a great cloud of white smoke. Clad in black crowns and corsets, their pilots propelled the magic carriage on the water with paddlewheels and shovels.
The foundation of their sculpture was a mid-20th century Italian 4-seater surrey bike, which seemed a great start until they discovered that to match its unusual specifications they needed to import additional parts from Italy to bring it up to racing condition.
The veteran Make Believers team has been entering every year since 2002, and has won numerous awards for their spectacular entries.
Cheese Racer won the Engineering award for their smooth-operating 4-pilot entry. The
dramatic Cracker Barrel pontoons held up well on the water at Canton. They required pushing and pulling to complete the sand and mud (due to their thin tires) but the judges were impressed by their design and reliability through the 13-mile course. The sculpture was engineered entirely by students at Sollers Point Technical High School.
Rocky Horror Picture Shoe
The Baltimore School for the Arts entered Rocky Horror Picture Shoe, a
giant sparkly tribute. By vote, they received the Pilots’ Choice award from their fellow pilots. They also received the Sock Creature of the Universe award for the quality of their thematically-consistent mandatory sock puppet.
The It Cain’t team returned for their fifth consecutive year with another bold design. This year’s NCC-1701 reflects the design of Star Trek’s original USS Enterprise, and was piloted by Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and Uhuru. They won the Speed award—and in 2008 they did the same when they
raced Think Tank, so things are clearly going well in the engineering department.
Hot Beef Injection
Baffling the Engineering judges with their simultaneous technical prowess and dramatic failures, Hot Beef Injection was an amphibious barbecue grill in which each pilot represented a chunk of food, and pit crew represented condiments and cooking implements. Adding to the festivity, they had an actual functional grill on board and served hot cooked food as bribes to race officials.
Spectators particularly enjoyed the sight of delectable food items navigating the Baltimore Harbor.
They had a novel propulsion scheme in which each pilot used a single large foot pedal to contribute
energy into the drivetrain, which was conveyed to the wheels through extraordinarily sturdy chains. Much of the powertrain
was constructed on a Ford
You can see the crew fatigue mounting as the afternoon wore on in the final photo below. For their dogged determination to push their sculpture through the race, they received the Best Pit Crew as well.
This is the same team that created 2008’s It’s Ben Hur, Hon and 2007’s Acme Kinetic Sculpture.
Water entry photo courtesy of Shawn Levin Photography.
David Hess and his Horkology Foundation of Baltimore brought back the immense PLATYPUS (Personal Long-range All-Terrain Yacht Proven Un-Safe) sporting a new larger platypus sculpture. For 2009, Pokey is more cartoonish and well-fed, and bears a stylish boater hat. They were the hands-down winner of the People’s Choice award, as determined by an extensive survey of the crowd conducted by Kinetic chicken volunteers.
In the splashing water entry, note the position of the lead passenger’s feet.
With eight pilots pedaling, one barnacle driving, and room for a second redundant barnacle up through the rooftop hatch, PLATYPUS retains the largest crew of any entry in Baltimore Kinetic history.
The singing, dancing, marching pit crew sported furry hats, and tutus made from plastic trash bags.
Oregon Trail is based on the 1980s computer game, and featured a covered wagon pulled by two oxen and a variety of animals and props from the game. They received the Best Costumes award for “daring to be beige” in a setting generally dominated by the flamboyant. This is the first entry from The Light, a Mt. Vernon art gallery and Christian church.
This brightly-colored entry is Air Cosmonauts, inspired by the Air Penguin film and the pilots’ Russian heritage. It sports four flight-goggled pilots and a barnacle.
Ella and the Elements
Ella and the Elements is the first entry from the eighth grade of
Roland Park Elementary School. Each pilot and pit crew member took the role of an individual element like
helium or aluminum. While the engineering consisted of a wooden frame integrating three bicycles, it held
up remarkably well, including at the water transition where the pilots simply climbed onto the frame for paddling.
Going to Hell
The American Visionary Art Museum’s Fifi returned for her ninth annual Kinetic race. This year, she sported a bevy of French maids as pit crew to keep her 1801 pounds at the peak of pinkness. She tied with Safety Bears for Best Bribes.
The photo of Fifi at the AVAM museum building is courtesy of Shawn Levin Photography.
The energetic team responsible for 2008’s Wilma & the Wombats
returned with the new Voodoo Air, bringing the same great music. Bearing a giant silver zeppelin, they powered through the course with aplomb.
Green Racer Flips
The veteran Dumpster Divers of Philadelphia brought back their Green Racer, which looked the same as last year but had a new surprise—flippability! Before they made it halfway down
the pier at the water entry, they showed signs of instability as the sculpture began to lean to the right.
Soon, the pilots were climbing out of their seats and around the sculpture as it continued to capsize, rolling underneath them.
With rescuing from a line thrown by Kinetic Baltimore’s Johanna Goderre, and once pulled to shore by the
mighty Ramp Master Michael Cooney, they continued the race sodden but unbeaten. For such a maneuver, they were destined to win this year’s Golden Flipper award for the “most interesting” water entry.
Snakehead is a tribute to the invasive fish that walks on land and despoils Maryland’s waterways. The team from Takoma Park saved plastic bottle lids for two years to form the colorful shell.
When they attempted to enter the water, their frame proved unworthy of its mechanical challenge, and the
pontoons spread wide while threatening to submerge the pilots. Although they lost the ACE award, they did complete the race through to the finish line.
It seems that almost every year’s Kinetic Race brings a very different entry on the theme of penguins, and Got Ice? includes polar bears, all wearing Hawaiian leis in
concerned anticipation of the effects of global warming. The sculpture didn’t offer very good
visibility for its pilots, but did complete the race. It was created by the Baltimore Lab School, responsible
for 2008’s Pirate Punks.
Looking extraordinarily similar in design to 2008’s Popemobile, the Safety Bears managed to climb the steep hump at the beginning of the mud pit without assistance. They tied with Fifi for the Best Bribes award because their assorted safety-related bribes impressed the judges.
Jemicy: Critter, Lady Jaye, Low Rider Max, Sneaky Moose, and Philly Flyer
It was built by a team of community youth and mentoring college students, and sponsored by the Renaissance Youth Bike Shop.
Hillbilly Racer came to the East Coast Championship all the way from the
2008 Missouri Kinetic Race. He won the first-ever I Came Very Far To Get Here award.
Bob Buerger of Frederick brought back Kinetic Airways for its tenth year. After a string of technical breakdowns in recent years, he was still trying to ACE the course for the fifth time. This year,
he cleared the water entry and used his broad temporary treads to easily navigate the sand and mud. But he got a flat tire, and
then another, which made progress much more difficult. Yet he persevered, calling one of the judges on his cellphone
to ensure that the finish line remained open. (The World Championship in California has a time limit.) By the
time he crossed the finish line, the awards ceremony was about to begin—but he achieved his ACE.
AVAM’s Bumpo, Rat, and Frog
Twitter Jay & the Recyclists
Festivity Among the Crowd
Many spectators, pit crew, volunteers, and pilots were well-costumed for the day. Here are some of them.
The Kinetic Baltimore Team
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