2021 Recycle Regatta

The 2021 Recycle Regatta ended on March 31.

Thank you to all who submitted! Entries will be reviewed and winners announced later this month. 

Gather materials

Design and build

Test and calculate

Refine and finish

Submit your entry by March 31

Hoist the sails! New England Science and Sailing (NESS), Educational Passages (EP), and the North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA) are excited to host the second virtual Recycle Regatta!

Why should I enter the competition?

The Recycle Regatta is a fun, hands-on competition that students can participate in from the safety of their own home! Students will build small-scale, unmanned, model sailboats, test them, and calculate their speed. Challenge other students from around the world as you do your part for the environment by repurposing and recycling. Prizes will be awarded to our winners!

K-12 teachers are also encouraged to bring this experiential program to their classroom with our free resources and discounted online lessons.

Here is Calvin and his creation that received the 2020 Squid Fleet's "Most Seaworthy" Award

There are 4 fleets this year. Each fleet will have two winners – Most Seaworthy (Fastest) and Most Creative. All fleets follow the same competition and submission guidelines. Winners will receive the title, award certificate, and a prize bag of sustainable materials and gifts from our sponsors.

When should I submit my entry?

Days left to enter!

Entries are due by midnight (ET) on March 31, 2021. To hear more about the rules and resources, watch the March kickoff event below:

Questions? Reach out to Beth, Educator at New England Science & Sailing, at bsmith@nessf.org.

Guidelines and Requirements

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

  1. Start by making a blueprint. 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 UNMANNED.
  2. Gather materials (safely!) that you will use to create your boat and test your design:  
    • Paper and pencil
    • Recycled materials – We do not want you to buy materials for this challenge! 
    • Ruler
    • Tape
    • Scissors
    • Calculator
    • Timer (a phone works!)
    • A bin of water (or sink or bathtub filled up!)
    • Recycle Regatta data sheet or access to online entry form
  1. Build a prototype, you might end up changing your design and that’s perfectly okay!
  2. Test and document your speed for at least 3 trials (see submission form). To test speed, place your boat in water and place 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. You may also use a flattened piece of cardboard as a fan. NO electric fans or blow dryers. Document how much time it takes to travel that distance. Submit your best 3 trials on the entry form.
  3. Then using the speed = distance/time, you can calculate speed. Write down your results on a piece of scrap paper, or on the submission form (you can also submit electronically).
  4. 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?
  5. Submit your entry form below or by printing and scanning our paper entry form and emailing to nquaratella@nessf.org.

Your entire boat must be built from recycled or discarded materials. We encourage you to be a steward of the environment in addition to an honorable mariner. Use only recycled 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, except for materials such as tape and glue.

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).

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!

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.
  2. Animals cannot occupy a boat.
  3. Sunken or discarded boats must be recycled if possible. Some parts of your boat may not be recyclable. Please check these guidelines on what can and cannot be recycled.
  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 yachtsperson. 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 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. Check out the Recycle Regatta website for extra help with speed calculations!
  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.
    • Mean average= total sum of the three trials divided by 3
    • Let’s look at an example of finding our average distance in cm.
      • Add together the 3 distances that we measured: 3cm + 7cm + 6cm = 16cm
      • Then take that total, and divide it by the number of trials: 16cm/3 trials=5.333cm.
      • Here you have your average distance, 5.333cm!

For Educators

Teachers looking to bring the STEM concepts of the Recycle Regatta to the classroom are invited to participate in NESS’ Sailing at Home Online Experiential Learning Course at a discounted rate. K-12 teachers who schedule an online program in February and March 2021 will receive a $50 discount. This live, NESS instructor-led program is hands-on and engaging, and is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Interested teachers may contact Nina Quaratella, Education Specialist, at nquaratella@nessf.org.

For At Home Learners

Here are some videos made by Educators from NESS and Educational Passages to help participants at home assemble their boats, and learn a little along the way.

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

2021 Recycle Regatta Hosts

New England & 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 2021 Recycle Regatta is 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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