Rubber Ducks and Duck Wranglers

Aug 1, 2015 by Mike Bibb

Not exactly an aquatic version of the Kentucky Derby, nevertheless Rocky Point’s Great Rubber Ducky Charity Race of 2015 proved just as exciting. Well, maybe not as exciting as watching American Pharaoh win the Triple Crown, but to a rubber duck racing fan the exhilaration is every bit as intense – just at a little slower pace.

American Pharaoh completed his sweep of America’s three premier horse races covering the final mile and a-half track in 2 minutes and 26 seconds at Belmont Park, NY. In contrast, Rocky Point’s 1st place duck paddled the 200 yards and eventually washed ashore on Sandy Beach registering a blistering 28 minutes and 43 seconds. Not certain if any records were broken, as such information is kept confidential by the Sandy Beach Rubber Duck Racing Association (SBRDRA).

Under the watchful eyes of event coordinators Barbara Olszewski and Sandy Spain, with the assistance of several “Duck Wranglers,” the 1,500 little numbered ducks hit the water on Sunday morning, June 14, at 10:17 a.m. Duck betters could lay down $5.00 on a single duck or buy three chances for $10.00. A ganga of a deal.

On race day, the weather was nearly perfect with a fast track – excellent conditions for a duck race. As the ducks were being staged for release from Capt. Adolfo Perez’s “About Time” fishing vessel, racing enthusiasts began to crowd the beach and adjoining areas. Even the balconies of nearby condos were filled to capacity with curious onlookers. 

Undoubtedly, off-track betting was intense, with Las Vegas odds on Duck #764 “Swifttoshore,” the leading contender, closely followed by Duck #1024 “Cortez Cutie.”

Keeping the ducks tightly grouped and heading toward shore, a team of specially trained kayak duck herders, or “wranglers” as they refer to themselves, made certain there were no stragglers, wayward drifting ducks or nefarious conduct which might give a duck an unfair advantage. A contestant discovered violating SBRDRA rules would be immediately suspended from the race and placed on a national no-swim registrar for a year. Fines vary from a few centavos to six or seven pesos, depending upon the severity of the violation. Two consecutive violations is an automatic life time ban from any Rubber Duck Racing Association sanctioned race. Anyone caught “doping” their duck is required to buy multiple rounds of Jose Cuervo, or beverage of choice, at a SBRDRA approved watering hole.

Fortunately, the Sandy Beach contest was a clean race, with no alleged violations or complaints. All monies raised by SBRDRA was donated to Puerto Peñasco’s school kids through Adopt-a-Classroom, a nonprofit organization established by Mark and Barb Olszewski.

Approximately 40 gifts and prizes were awarded this year’s winners.

2015 Duck Wranglers (L-R): Dick, Marsha, Sandy, Bev, Charmaine, Barbara, Tammy, Debby, Sarimar. Not pictured: Sydney and Marti.

Kayak wranglers herd the flotilla of rubber ducks toward shore as supporters and onlookers eagerly await the first few winners.

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