Tips for a Rain Gutter Regatta


The Rain Gutter Regatta races small model boats along a 10-foot long water-filled rain gutter. As with the Pinewood Derby car races, each participant is given a standard kit that includes only the pre-approved parts for building a boat. One significant difference between this event and the Pinewood Derby is the involvement of the participant during the race. The participants must blow into the boat's sails to propel it along the rain gutter.


  • The standard boat kit includes a hull made from balsa wood, a plastic sail, and a metal keel. The hull can be shaped, sanded, and painted however the participant chooses, so long as it still fits within the official specifications. The hull must be between six-and-one-half and seven inches long and the mast must be six-and-one-half inches long when measured from the top to the boat's deck.

Keep it Simple

  • While it can be fun to customize your sailboat with decals and various colors of paint, these items will slow the boat down during the race. If you do choose to add a personalized touch, use a thin, quick-drying spray paint such as Krylon to minimize the weight added to the boat.

Building the Boat

  • Attach the keel and rudder along the center of the hull, so that they are perpendicular to the hull's bottom. For maximum stability, move the keel back as close to the rudder as possible. Use glue to attach the narrow edge of the keel to the hull, keeping the angled edge pointed forward. This will keep the boat from tipping over as easily and allows it to regain its position when only slightly tipped over.

Positioning the Sail

  • Make sure the sail sits high enough that it will not drag in the water or touch the edges of the rain gutter. Usually, 1/2 inch of clearance between the bottom of the sail and the boat's deck is sufficient to keep it out of harm's way. Do not raise the sail too high or it will make the boat top-heavy and it will fall over. To correct a boat that has become top-heavy, add weight to the keel or add a second keel to the boat.

During the Race

  • No matter how well you design your boat, you will not win the race if you cannot blow enough wind into the sail. Remember that it is more important to blow straight than to blow hard. Bumping into the sides of the rain gutter will slow the boat down. Position your straw approximately one inch away from the bottom portion of the sail and blow in long, controlled blasts.


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