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Red Hookers will race 3-D-printed boats at Valentino Pier

Seaworthy: Teams test their crafts ahead of the Sept. 20 Red Hook Regatta, in which locals will race remote-control boats made using 3D printers.
Photo by Jason Speakman

Who says Red Hook’s shipping heyday has passed?

A crew of Red Hookers are creating an armada of remote-control boats with a 3–D printer, which they will put to the test with a cargo-delivery race in a homage to the historic shipping ’hood on Sept. 20.

Racers drafted their two-foot crafts on computer software at neighborhood arts hub Pioneer Works, where local artists and tech-sperts are helping them take care of the rest, one shipwright said.

“They picked a boat and designed it using Rhinoceros — a three-dimensional modeling software — and we print them, assemble it all, test them out and make sure they’re working,” said Laurenzo Reed, who is working on the project as part of a fellowship with high-tech job-training program Digital Stewards, which is run by neighborhood community group the Red Hook Initiative.

The racers designed their own vessels, but the boats’ mechanics are all equal. Reed designed the rudder and steering system for all the crafts, and fellow digital steward Jesus Benitez designed the propulsion — a pump-jet similar to a jet ski’s, the pair said.

They have to tweak their system to each team’s unique hull. The boat-builders were in the middle of fashioning their fleet when this paper dropped by, and the designs were really picking up steam, Benitez said.

“Each one is getting better and better,” he said.

During Sunday’s regatta, captains won’t just go full-sail toward a finish line — they’ll ferry “shipping containers” (painted foam blocks) from the shore to one of three “cranes” (guys with fishing rods) stationed along Valentino Pier. The stevedores who deliver the most freight in 15 minutes win.

The exercise is a nod to the nabe’s history as a working waterfront powerhouse, but it is also the culmination of months of research the stewards have done into the history of Red Hook as part of a new journalism program Pioneer Works and the Initiative are collaborating on, an organizer said.

“They went trough the history of the neighborhood, looking at the shipping industry and the socioeconomic history,” said David Sheinkopf, Pioneer Works’ director of education. “The tech aspect is cool and fun — and people love 3-D printing — but the educational component made it a little more than just a boat race.”

The research gave Reed a new perspective on his stomping grounds, he said.

“I didn’t really know much of the history, so doing this was like a whole new experience of the neighborhood,” the 23-year-old life-long Hook resident said.

Benitez modeled his own boat after a barge, which stevedores loaded by hand before cranes arrived on the scene, but he also added a flourished bowsprit for speed — and for kicks, he said.

“The secret to my design? I had fun with it,” Benitez said.

Red Hook Regatta at Valentino Pier [entrances on Coffey and Van Dyke streets at Ferris Street] Sept. 20 at 4 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.

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