Every year, my buddies and I do the Ya Gotta Regatta in Great Valley, NY, a small town outside of Buffalo. It’s a fundraiser for the local Fire Department, and it’s basically a boat ride down a 5-mile stretch of the creek there. There are four stops along the way with kegs, games, bands, and the like, where everyone docks their boats, fills their cups, and enjoys the water from land for a while before getting back in and heading for the next stop.
It’s a total blast, and a time with friends which I look forward to it every year. So, needless to say, when I heard about this Beer Can Regatta in Darwin, Australia, I was pretty pumped up about it. It’s been going on for 40 years, and the people who participate take it pretty damn seriously. Just look at that picture.
But this year, participants have encountered a somewhat substantial obstacle: a new recycling program that offers 10 Australian cents per can (about 9 U.S. cents), making spare cans much more scarce.
The Wall Street Journal interviewed one regatta veteran, Mike Keeley, who said he’s now working on a catamaran with room for up to 150 people. He estimates he’ll need about 42,000 cans for this bad boy, and it may be hard for him with the new recycling incentive.
Much like Ya Gotta Regatta here in my hometown, the Beer Can Regatta is all for a good cause, put on by a Local Lion’s Club branch with proceeds going to various charities, so it’s a real shame about the recycling initiative. While I of course support green practices, it’s not like these people are making their boats, doing the race, then throwing them in a dumpster. They reuse every salvageable can, but they need more each year for bigger and better crafts.
“We’ve begged, borrowed, drank and stole, scrounged and recycled old cans from last year,” said Amanda Brown, a regatta vet who purchased Mike Keeley’s vessel from last year for a little over $7,000. The craft she’s working on now has about 35,000 cans, including 6,000 sculpted into a giant crocodile that sits on top of the boat, weighing in at about 3 tons.
Participation is down because of the program, and people are doing things they never dreamed of in previous years, like mixing brands and using soda cans on beer crafts.
It’s all rather ironic, as the regatta was first held in 1974, and one of the main motives was to help clean up the city. According to the Journal, authorities at that time estimated there were enough beer cans on city streets to lay a 200 mile trail across Australia.
I wish there were a way to send my cans to Australia. When we were in need of bottle caps for our wall, our fans and customers were so delighted to send theirs in. I feel like regatta participants need to tap their fans and spectators. I’d give up that 10 cents in a heartbeat. I’ve got my fingers crossed for all the participants. I’m sure they’ll figure it out. I’m also thinking more seriously about a trip to Australia myself.