Latvia’s Milk Carton Boat Race

‘Here’s One I Made Earlier’

Remember those rainy days of childhood when mum or dad sat us down with a collection of cardboard tubes and some PVA glue and told us to let our imaginations soar? Well, the Latvians have taken their arts-and-crafts skills to the next level, building and racing large-scale boats using nothing but empty milk cartons. It's been 14 years since the first amateur mariners took to the water in what is surely one of the funnest ways to recycle ever.

The milk carton regatta, takes place in August every year on the Leilupe River in Jelgava, Latvia, is one of the highlights of the Latvian ‘Milk, Bread, and Honey’ festival – also famous for culinary feats such as 25-metre-long loaves of honey bread, and a 600 kilogram rye-bread cake. All this bread and locally-produced honey is needed to feed such a large and hard-working naval force, because while the course is only 50m long, the contestants must use nothing but pure, Latvian muscle power to drive their craft to the finish line. And let’s face it, milk cartons are hardly the most aerodynamic of building materials!

The Latvians are obviously very proud of their locally-produced dairy products, just as proud as the Australians are of their robust drinking culture (see the ‘Australian Beer Can Regatta’). Which leads me to question, what would a similar British event look like? Would we be attempting to make sea-worthy crafts out of soggy steak bakes from Greggs? Rafts of tea-bags? Commemorative Will & Kate Royal Wedding breakfast trays? None of these sound like a very good idea, which is probably why Britain, unlike Latvia and Australia, has so far stuck to racing actual boats.