January / February 2022

We Believe

Two teams, a single vision, and 70 miles paddled in 48 hours
We Believe

JAN HEIN

In 2019, a team of students from Platte Canyon High School, which is 8,000’ above sea level in Colorado, built a 40′ boat in which they competed in the Seventy48—a grueling race on Washington’s Puget Sound. They are seen here paddling the last few miles to the Port Townsend finish line of the 2021 race.

Platte Canyon High School, enrollment 258, was an unlikely place to teach boatbuilding. Located 8,000' above sea level in the Rocky Mountain town of Bailey, Colorado, it had no tools, the workshop was closed, and Platte River was the only nearby navigable water. The inspiration to build a boat at the high school began with teachers Kip Otteson and Steve Hanford in 2018. Otteson wanted students to have hands-on experience; Hanford was after adventure. From these impulses grew a plan to race a student-built boat in the Seventy48, a contest for human-powered boats on Washington’s Puget Sound, so-named because it covers 70 miles in 48 hours.

Hanford and Otteson launched their program by teaching basic boatbuilding skills while building a small kayak in a classroom. Kids signed on, eager to build a larger boat they could race together. Students and teachers pored over plans, considering the needs of their co-ed team and logistical details such as sleeping, food storage, and sanitation. The group settled on a 40' Dragon Boat from the British firm Selway Fisher Design.

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