Floating Mystery No Longer So Mysterious

Alumni chime in on their memories of the Riddle Regatta

‘Shark’ Sighting at the Riddle Regatta

I saw the back cover of the winter Lift magazine, and I have an answer from a guy that lived this event!

The Vets Club sponsored the Riddle Regatta from the early 1970s through the late 1980s. They decided to make it a fun event and got the Daytona city fathers to go along with sponsoring a slow-season, post-Labor Day weekend event on the Halifax River. It was one of the first “win-win” events between the locals, local business, the city and the school. It was covered regularly in the media and kept on growing.

The Riddle Regatta (Courtesy PJ Hassett)

The only requirement was [the raft] had to float using tire inner tubes and no gas motors – human power only. Nobody attempted sails, even though it was an option. Anybody could enter, and they did. Virtually every club on campus had their representation. Local night clubs, stores, the fire and police departments and individuals were entrants. Categories were single, double and teams. Team rafts were almost ridiculously huge or long.

Creativity in the race turned into: “Just how can I make this round rubber thing full of air faster?”

Leave it to Embry-Riddle students and race-car enthusiasts to figure out nautical engineering with rubber, rope, duct tape and canoe paddles to come up with some unique designs. Some failed upon launch and others cruised [at] almost Olympic rowing speeds.

The Riddle Regatta (Courtesy PJ Hassett)

I raced myself for several years in the double and then in the single category. It did get competitive. Designs got faster; rivalries began. Mine was this local guy, only known to me as “The Shark.” The Shark was an older man, wore a white planter’s hat, no shirt, shorts and duct-taped-on flip flops. Somehow, he always beat me. I’d see him at a stoplight, and we would graciously nod like knights awaiting the next annual joust… Maybe next year! Even the trophies were unusual: canoe paddles with mounted plaques [indicating the] level of victory.

I still have mine.

PJ Hassett (’80, ’85)
B.S. Aeronautical Science
Master of Business Administration

The Thrill of (a Second-Place) Victory…

I was a member of the Vets Club during the spring of 1985 when I attended the race on the Intracoastal Waterway in Daytona.

The part I remember the most is taking second place overall and first place out of all the Embry-Riddle boats. I still remember how much fun it was passing the Embry-Riddle Marines ROTC halfway through the race in the middle of the river. The MROTC boat had a complete meltdown and started yelling at each other while we passed them. It was very rewarding for vets from Embry-Riddle while we were locking in second place.

Gregory Zupkus (’86)
B.S. Aviation Technology

And the Agony of (a Second-Place) Defeat

I just saw the back page of the Lift fall/winter 2021 issue and remember winning first place in the 1988 Regatta. Oh wait! Those dopes from the soccer team cheated and ended up getting first. I was in the Avionics Club. We called ourselves the MOSFETs, Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor-Field-Effect-Transistors. You can look up the Aug. 10, 1988, Avion with Mr. John Brannon on the front page. The article tells how we gave him a T-shirt saying, “AVIONICS, making pilots obsolete.” We also won the softball league that year, back when ERAU didn’t have sports teams, so we just made up our own. Mr. Brannon was a judge at the race in 1988. I graduated in December 1988, so I’m not sure how much longer the regatta continued. We would go to the local contractors with big trucks and they would donate tire tubes. Put them all together with about four people and let the madness begin. John Formica and Sean Reardon were two of the four. Can’t remember who was the fourth man for the Avionics team. The trophy was a boat oar. I think we might have given it to Mr. Brannon or Mr. Coleman to hang in the Avionics Building.

Clifford Williams (’88)
B.S. Aviation Business Administration

Oyster Duty

I can provide a little information with regard to your raft picture. I’m from the class of ’82 and participated in two Riddle Regattas. I worked at the Silver Bucket Oyster Bar (the first oyster bar in Daytona Beach — located on Seabreeze) during my time at ERAU, and the owner annually entered a team into the race. I’m proud to say we won the race both times I participated, ’81 and ’82. It was a pretty grueling race. I remember it ending at the marina on Main Street, but forget exactly where it started. I know it was long though! There were a lot of participants and the rafts were made of inner tubes strapped together. Every tire store in Daytona was empty of inner tubes for a month after the race. A shoutout to my fellow ERAU “sailors” on the Bucket raft — Pete Schott (’83) and Dave Gallagher (’82). Couldn’t tell you how many years the Regatta ran, but pretty sure it ran in the late ’70s into the early ’80s. 

Brian Dormer (’82) 
B.S. Aeronautical Science, A.A. Aviation Management

Fond Memories

The 1984 Riddle Regatta (Courtesy Elizabeth Jorsey)

The 1984 Riddle Regatta was loads of fun and somewhat orderly. You couldn’t find an inner tube from a tire shop within 20 miles of Daytona the week of the Regatta! All of the clubs entered rafts. I belonged to the Future Professional Women in Aviation Club, and we entered a raft every year I was at Riddle.

The 1984 Riddle Regatta (Courtesy Elizabeth Jorsey)

Elizabeth (Dobbs) Jorsey (’87)
B.S. Aeronautical Studies