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Tue, Feb. 18

Sunlight and sails...<BR>Mountain View students fill water's edge for annual race

PRESCOTT VALLEY — Prescott Valley's effluent recharge ponds aren't just efficient ways to put treated wastewater back in the ground.

They help water the urban forest trees nearby. With their fountains and waterfalls, they give urban trail walkers something to look at.

And, once a year, they introduce 8- and 9-year-olds to the sport of model boat racing.

This is the second spring that the lakes have been filled with water.

And for the second time, the town has helped Mountain View Elementary School stage a sailboat race in May by shutting off the pumps, the fountain and the waterfall in the upper lake, in order to let the wind exercise its magic over the tiny crafts.

Thursday morning, about 125 third-graders hiked over the hill, forming a parade of tall ships. Also stout ones, both colorful and dull.

Every child had his or her own idea of what might sail best.

A six-inch-long foil boat joined a huge molded PVC pipe version mounted on pontoons of five-gallon commercial plastic water cooler bottles.

Pieces of wood joined styrofoam and milk jugs. The sails ranged from traditional canvas to sheets to last year's mangled kites. Sailor Barbie floated on one, while Pikachu skippered another.

They came to the shore, impatiently waiting the countdown, eyeing the water's edge and oblivious to the wind that dropped over a hill from the west.

But not David Boone. Boone, a third-grade teacher and the originator of the sailboat races, turned his head into the wind. And as he carefully edged the children to the water, "not too close, yet," he willed the winds to change.

They rose and fell, swirling, but remained basically from the west. And so he gave the countdown and watched the boats fall into the calm water.

A few sank right away, a few more tumbled with the help of gusty winds.

Most just foundered in the still water. Here and there, one would catch a breeze, only to capsize when the wind flared.

Moms and dads, taking time to watch the event, made suggestions. Take it out of the water and try it over here. At one point, dozens of youngsters walked their boats to the southwest corner of the lake and dropped them off the pedestrian bridge.

Finally, Dakota Morris' light styrofoam craft made a run for it. The fragile-looking sailboat with the bright yellow, blue and red Batman kite sail on a dowel flitted across the water, then cartwheeled to the water's edge.

Eventually, Morris turned up at the other shore to claim it. While he lost track of it among the boats and missed its grounding, he wasn't surprised it made it across first.

"I knew it was going to win," Morris said, cradling the foot-long boat he built and glued himself. "We tried it out already at Fain Lake."

Meghan Curry's boat was second, and Sam Vargas claimed third, with help from sailing friend Rayann Huff.

London Ames had a huge, intricate craft made of wood slats, with Barbie reclining on deck.

The HMS London finished "fourth or fifth, I think," Ames said, "I really don't know for sure."

Ames said she and her dad, Eugene Robert Ames, planned the design for days, but built it Wednesday night.

Prescott Valley Public Works crew members floated the biggest boat, a rowboat that they took into the water to round up foundering crafts.

One third-grader proudly held up wet, separated pieces of cardboard. Maybe his craft hadn't stayed together well, but it did make it across. Another pulled his from the water, just feet from shore, tossed upside down by a gust.

"Maybe I should have decorated the bottom better," he said, laughing.

Boone said his class talks about materials, design, the purpose of sails and the like, but he leaves the final composition to his students. And there's no grade involved.

He said Public Works Director Larry Tarkowski suggested the sailboat races last year, as something different for Mountain View Elementary to try.

"He thought it would be a fun use for the lakes, and I'm just crazy enough to do it," Boone said.

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