2023 Recycle Regatta

The 4th Annual Recycle Regatta is ON! Students in grades K-12 are invited to compete in this free competition and learning event. First, build a model sailboat out of recycled and repurposed materials. Then, race your boat to victory while learning all about engineering, mathematics, sailing, buoyancy, and stewardship. Classrooms, boating centers, families, and all community organizations are encouraged to take on the challenge.

The 2023 Recycle Regatta will encourage unique, experiential learning opportunities for students in grades K-12. In its fourth year, Recycle Regatta partners are working to connect with more educators in and out of the classroom to allow the regatta to be an accessible opportunity for all.

Recycle Regatta is aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Ocean Literacy Principles, and CASEL Social and Emotional Learning Framework for grades K-12. Participating students will walk away from the Recycle Regatta with an increased knowledge of engineering, environmental conservation, and mathematics. They will also gain an appreciation for recycling and stewardship, as well as enhanced social-emotional skills such as teamwork, confidence, and perseverance.

See below for submission rules and forms. Entries due March 31.


Rules and Guidelines

There are a few guidelines and requirements to follow, and we’ve listed them here. You can also download them here and print them for easy reference as you engineer your submission! 

  1. Start by making a blueprint on a scrap piece of paper, or on the Data Form (see last page of this document). Engineers always plan before starting to build! This can be a drawing, list of materials, or a write-up of what you plan to do. Your sailboat submission should be small-scale (less than 40 cm long) and uncrewed.
  2. Gather materials (safely!) that are recycled or discarded. We do not want you to buy materials.
  3. Set up your testing bin, and be sure to note the size, as your boat should fit inside your testing bin and have at least 25 cm left to move. If it is too large, it will be difficult to calculate speed.
  4. Build a prototype, you might end up changing your design and that’s perfectly okay.
  5. Test your design! See how the boat moves, floats, and sails! Does it stay upright? Does it float? If not, change your design until you have the perfect vessel!
  6. Test and document your speed for at least 3 trials. To test speed, place your boat in testing bin with water and markers for a distance (try 1 foot with a ruler). Then create “wind” using your breath by blowing on your boat or using a reusable straw. Document how much time it takes to travel that distance. Submit your best 3 trials on the entry form. Use the formula Speed = Distance/Time to calculate speed. All speed calculations should be done in cm/second. Write down your results.
  7. Improve your design based on the testing process and start the testing process again! Can you make your boat go faster by changing the design?
  8. Submit your entry form by MARCH 31. Each fleet will have two winners – Most Seaworthy (Fastest) and Most Creative. Submissions will be accepted from February 15-March 31.

We encourage you to be a steward of the environment in addition to an honorable mariner. Your boat must be built from recycled or discarded materials- i.e. objects that have already been used at least once. The Recycle Regatta team strongly discourages participants to buy new materials for this project. Design is left to engineers! Let your imagination take over. These lists are not all inclusive! Our goal is to convert and repurpose waste to create fantastic boats!

Materials you may use in boat construction:

  • Plastic
  • Cans – aluminum, tin, any that will float
  • Duct tape
  • Cardboard
  • Glue
  • Fishing line
  • Other recyclable/discarded items with positive buoyancy (they float)! Check these guidelines for more information on what can and cannot be recycled.
  • Decorations and crew costumes are allowed and encouraged!

Materials you may not use in boat construction:

  • Wood
  • Rubber
  • Inflatables – raft, pool toys, etc.
  • Fiberglass
  • Caulking compounds
  • Electrical systems
  • Engines – gasoline powered, battery powered, etc.
  • Paint or varnish (can be used for decoration, but not for waterproofing)
  • Raw materials made out of recycled content (Trex decking, etc).

Please read the following carefully. Failure to comply with safety requirements will result in disqualification.

  1. All participating mariners must wear a personal floatation device (PFD) in the water, near the water, or on a dock. If you are testing a boat in a controlled location (such as a bathtub), a PFD is not required, but an adult should be present.
  2. Animals cannot occupy a boat.
  3. Sunken or discarded boats must be recycled if possible.
  4. You must have a means of recovering your vessel after launch, from the surface of the water, or, if your vessel sinks, from Davy Jones’ Locker.
  5. Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Participants are expected to maintain the decorum and dignity expected of a Inappropriate behavior at the discretion of the Recycle Regatta team will not be permitted and will disqualify your entry.
  1. Measure and record a specific distance that you know your boat is able to travel. Mark this distance (ex. tape on the side of the tub/testing bin as a start/finish line). Measure this distance with a ruler, meter stick, tape
    measure, or other device.
  2. Time how long it takes your boat to travel that entire distance!
  3. Speed = Distance/Time. So, if your boat traveled 10 centimeters in 2 seconds, you would set up your equation as 10 centimeters/2 seconds. Your final speed would be 5 cm/second. This answer came from dividing 10/2 and combining the units used. 
  4. Calculate your speed for 3 trials.
  5. Find the average distance, time, and speed! We use averages to summarize a group of data or measurements.
    a. Mean average= total sum of the three trials divided by 3
    b. Let’s look at an example of finding our average distance in cm.
    i. Add together the 3 distances that we measured: 3cm + 7cm + 6cm = 16cm
    ii. Then take that total, and divide it by the number of trials: 16cm/3 trials=5.333cm
    iii. Here you have your average distance, 5.333cm!

Challenge yourself! Convert from speed in cm/second to Knots

Sailors and mariners use a special type of unit to talk about speed. These units are called knots! They take into account nautical miles, which are used in distance measurements out at sea. We’ve given you the conversion formula for knots, if you want to see how your boat would compare to a life size sailing vessel! Knots = Nautical miles per hour

  • Take your speed in cm/second and divide it by 51.4444
  • Speed = 5.333cm/s ➗ 51.4444 =0.1036 knots

The speed in knots might seem small, but remember, you are calculating your speed in nautical miles/hour!

Be sure to check the rest of this webpage for all Recycle Regatta updates and other resources, too!

Submit your official entry to 2023 Recycle Regatta below. 

2023 Entry Form

Thank you for competing in the 2023 Recycle Regatta, this is your final leg of the race! All engineers must document their measurements and progress to be considered for a prize, and to reflect on how far they have come! Here you will provide speed calculations and show us your boat design. We are so excited to see how your journey went!  To download the form and submit your entry via email, click here and follow the included instructions for submission.

To submit your entry now, click a button from the fleet options below:


February 15, 2023
February 15, 2023

2023 Recycle Regatta Kickoff Event

The 2023 Recycle Regatta kicked off on February 15. Explore this website for all the details on how to submit your entry!

March 31, 2023
March 31, 2023

Submissions Due by Midnight

To officially enter the 2022 Recycle Regatta, all submissions must be submitted online here by March 31 at midnight (Eastern time).

April 2023
April 2023

Winners will be Announced

We will announce the winners in April 2023.

Invitation to Sponsor 2023 Recycle Regatta


Check out the Teacher Toolkit we developed, which is to help educators host their own Recycle Regatta in the classroom (click the image to download).

There are also quite a few educational resource videos shared below:

Calculating Boat Speed with Hula Popper

Ocean Currents and Miniboats At Sea with Moana and Cassie

The Engineering Method with Sunshine

The Physics of Sailing with Sassy

Marine Debris with Moana and SoCal

Buoyancy with Striper and Sassy

2023 Recycle Regatta Hosts

New England Science & Sailing (NESS) is a nationally recognized and award-winning ocean adventure education non-profit with a mission to empower students with a love of learning through ocean-based experiential programs that serve schools, teachers, and families. For more information, visit www.nessf.org.

Educational Passages is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire ocean stewardship through unique global experiences. Participants connect through the building, launching and tracking of six foot long unmanned and satellite equipped “miniboats” that sail themselves to distant shores. To learn more about Educational Passages and its Miniboat Program, visit www.educationalpassages.org/start.  

The North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA) is a marine industry-led organization of environmental stewards preserving the marine environment by promoting sustainable marine industry best practices and educating seafarers, students and the public about the need and strategies for protecting global ocean, lake and river resources.  For more information visit www.namepa.net.

The 2022 Recycle Regatta

The 2021 Recycle Regatta was hosted by New England Science and Sailing, Educational Passages, and North American Marine Environment Protection Association. THANK YOU to all of our 3rd Annual Recycle Regatta participants for your support and engagement. This year, we had over 125 entries! Check out the winners below:


(GR K-2)


MOST SEAWORTHY: Pete (39 cm/s)


(GR 3-5)

MOST CREATIVE: Ellie, Maleia, Kayden

MOST SEAWORTHY: Freya B. (30.7 cm/s)


(GR 6-8)


MOST SEAWORTHY: Dayten V. (48.2 cm/s)


(GR 9-12)

MOST CREATIVE and MOST SEAWORTHY: Chris (58.11 cm/s)

The 2021 Recycle Regatta

The 2021 Recycle Regatta had four fleet competitions: MINIBOAT, OPTI, HARTLEY, and LASER. Check out the winners below:





2021 Winner Announcement Video

2021 Kickoff Event Video

The 2021 Recycle Regatta was hosted by New England Science and Sailing, Educational Passages, and North American Marine Environment Protection Association. It was also supported by the West Marine BlueFuture Fund. This fund is dedicated to supporting community-based organizations empower students with marine science and sailing education.

The 2020 Recycle Regatta

The 2020 Recycle Regatta had three fleet competitions: SAILFISH, SQUID, and SHRIMP. Check out the winners below:


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