HEBER SPRINGS — Tori Osborn said neither she nor her younger sister Caitlyn had previously heard of the Heber Springs World Championship Cardboard Boat Races, but they cruised to victory on Saturday.
“I had never been to cardboard-boat races; I never knew what they were. I’d never heard of them,” Tori said. “It’s a big deal, as it seems.”
To prepare, they … did nothing.
“We didn’t really practice — we hadn’t done anything,” Tori said. “We were just there for the fun. We get there, and we just nail it.”
Tori and Caitlyn, 14 and 13, respectively, won first place in the team youth division in the 28th annual races, sponsored by the Heber Springs Area Chamber of Commerce.
“There were quite a bit of boats that were very good,” Tori said.
The Osborn sisters live in Mountain View but have a home in Higden during the summers, said their mother, Jerushia Osborn. She also said her daughters love outdoor activities.
Bobby Cox, 51, the owner of Bobby’s Bait Shop in Higden, recruited the teenagers to race his boat.
“He was very excited — he was just very encouraging to us to make it,” Tori said. “He was very into it; he had been [going] to them for a long time.”
The teenagers work for the bait shop sometimes in the summer, Tori said.
“They did excellent,” Cox said. “Shoot, they did it in like a minute and 10 seconds. It was the best race ever.”
Cox said he had won racing a corporate boat in the race, but this was the first year for Bobby’s Bait Shop to have a boat in the race.
“The cardboard boats are something I really look forward to,” he said.
Tori said it surprised her that she and Caitlyn did so well in the boat. She and Caitlyn had gone rafting before, “but we were always playing around, and we always messed up on that,” she said.
She said they won the first heat handily.
“We were far ahead of them. The same with the second [heat],” she said of the final race. Tori said when she first looked at the boat that was their closest competitor, she thought it was going to be fast. “It had quite a few people, and [in our boat], it was just me and Caitlyn.”
However, she and Caitlyn easily pulled away and won, which was “very exciting,” Tori said.
Caitlyn agreed that it was “very exciting” to win the trophy on their first attempt. She said “team power” was why she and her sister won their division.
The races were also the first for Julie Murray, new executive director of the Heber Springs Area Chamber of Commerce. She tried to watch them by boat last year, but Greers Ferry Lake was packed.
“I loved it because where the volunteers were under the pavilion, we had a bird’s-eye view of the finish line,” Murray said.
In addition to “great food vendors,” Murray said, participation was excellent in the races, the watermelon-eating contest and the volleyball tournament.
The Osborn girls’ trophy will be displayed in Bobby’s Bait Shop. Cox said he is already planning for next year’s race.
“We’re building a new boat this year. We’re going to build like a huge, huge canoe,” he said. “I’ve got the material for it. We’ll build it this winter.”
While it was the sisters’ first cardboard-boat-race experience, Tori said she hopes it’s not their last.
“I would love to do it again; it was lots of fun,” she said.
Cox said they can count on it.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.