Sunday, May 31, 2009

A different kind of race

I was amazed to learn of the Kinetic Grand Championship, also known as the Kinetic Sculpture Race, held in Humboldt County, California, each year. The 2009 event has just taken place.

The event's Web site describes it as follows:

The Kinetic Grand Championship is a 3-day, 42-mile bicycle race over land, sand, mud and water. Many refer to the Kinetic Grand Championship as the “Triathlon of the Art World.”

The race began 40 years ago in 1969, when world-renowned sculpture artist Hobart Brown challenged Ferndale artist Jack Mays to a race down Ferndale’s Mainstreet. In their kinetic contraptions they started a 40-year Humboldt tradition that has spread to Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Baltimore, Maryland and all the way to Perth, Australia. But it all began here among the majestic redwood groves of Humboldt County.

Day 1 of the Kinetic Grand Championship starts on the Plaza in Arcata, California at the noon whistle every Memorial Day weekend. The racers take off to the Manila dunes, where they race through miles of sand to the great and inevitable “Deadman’s Drop.” Then on to Eureka’s downtown gazebo.

Day 2 starts in Eureka at the waterfront on the Humboldt Bay, where brave Kinetic Pilots race their crafts through the water (most float). Then back on land where kinetic sculptures go up Hookton Hill, a 1 mile-7% incline and decline. Day 2 ends with a private campout for racers and volunteers only.

Day 3 starts from the mouth of the Eel River, through Morgan slough and onto dry land. Racers cross the finish line on Ferndale’s historic Mainstreet, where racers park and head up to the Final Awards Dinner at Ferndale’s Fireman’s Hall.

What is a Kinetic Sculpture?

Kinetic Sculptures are all-terrain human-powered art sculptures that are engineered to race over road, water, mud and sand. Kinetic sculptures are amazing works of art; many are animated with moving parts like blinking eyes, opening mouths, heads that move side to side and up and down.

Kinetic Sculptures are usually made from what some people consider “junk”. But one man’s junk is another racer’s raw material. Each Kinetic Sculpture is a work of art and each racing team has its own theme.

The teams consist of pilots, pit crew and pee-ons. Kinetic Pilots pedal the sculpture and steer, the pit crew assists the pilots in transforming the vehicle for the various elements and fixing mechanical issues, and pee-ons, well, they do whatever is needed for the team to get glory. The teams give out “bribes” to their adoring spectators, judges and Rutabaga Royalty.

Spectators are encouraged to follow the race on their bikes (obeying all traffic laws that apply please). Seeing these marvels of art and engineering turns many people on to bike culture and reminds people how much fun riding your bike can be!

Who Wins?

Good question! Well when Hobart Brown started the Kinetic Sculpture Race 40 years ago, he lost the race he created! Now one of the most coveted awards is the “Mediocre Award.”

Other awards include “The Golden Dinosaur,” which is the first sculpture to break down after the start line, “The Golden Flipper,” for the best flip of a sculpture in sand and water, and “Poor Pitiful Me.” Racers can also “Ace” the race, which means they race the entire course for 42 miles without pushing or ''getting caught'' cheating. Each award is handmade by a local artist!

There's more at the link, including links (in the sidebar) to pictures and video of past events. The photographs interspersed with the text above were kindly sent to me by reader Jilly M. Thanks, Jilly!

Here's a video of the starting parade of this year's event. Never have I seen so many weird and wonderful machines assembled in one place!

Looks like a good time was had by all. This one goes on my list of 'Things I'd like to see in person sometime'.


1 comment:

Raptor said...

Wow. I'd heard about this years and years ago, back when I was in elementary school, I think. Always wanted to try and enter one of these things, but it never happened. I'm kinda shocked that all these years later, it's still out there.

Maybe now I'll get around to entering.