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Concrete canoe wins national title again

Concrete Canoe sprint team

The co-ed sprint team races to the finish line at the Concrete Canoe national championship. (large image)

The UW-Madison Concrete Canoe team successfully defended its national championship, triumphing over 21 other universities in three days of competition that concluded Sunday near Washington, D.C.

The canoe, based at the College of Engineering and dubbed "Rock Solid," followed in the footsteps of the "Chequamegon," which won last year's competition in Philadelphia. The "Rock Solid" canoe had won regional competition held in Milwaukee in May.

"It was pretty unbelievable," said Linda Vanevenhoven, a civil engineering major and paddler for the team, of the second national championship in a row. "You hoped for it, but it was unexpected. It was pretty sweet."

The competition challenges student teams to design, build and race canoes made primarily out of concrete. Student teams not only race the canoes during the competition, but must also present academic papers on their material and construction methods, make a business presentation detailing their canoe design, and pass a flotation test to prove the boat can float horizontally when filled with water.

The UW-Madison team accomplished its victory with top grades in each of the four major categories — second place for the business presentation and final canoe product, and third place overall in the races and academic paper. It was the only team to finish in the top five in each of the major categories.

The races saw the UW-Madison team finish fourth or higher in each of the individual competitions — men's and women's sprints, men's and women's endurance races, and the co-ed sprint. As a highlight, the women's sprint team, which included paddlers Vanevenhoven and Amy Roth, finished first, beating longtime canoe heavyweight Clemson University in that race for the first time in several years.

The UW-Madison team spent the better part of the 2003-04 academic year designing, testing and building its canoe in the newly constructed Engineering Centers Building. The finished canoe weighed 180 pounds and measured four inches short of 22 feet. Co-chairs Shannon Pierce and Preston Tokheim led this year's team.

Along with the win comes a first-place trophy and $5,000. A Canadian school, Université Laval, finished second, followed by the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

The American Society of Civil Engineers and Master Builders, Inc., a manufacturer of materials used in the concrete industry, sponsor the canoe competition.