Friday, November 13, 2009

Hurling Squash: Punkin Chunkin Contest 2009

Bursting with excitement and pride, I present you with this special eyewitness report by my dear brother-in-law, catapult connoisseur Stephen Wittkop. Have a seat at his harvest table as he serves up the sights, sounds, and statistics of the 24th Annual Punkin Chunkin World Championship.

Somewhere near US13 in close proximity to Bridgeville, Delaware, one hundred and nine teams answered the call. Intrepid men and women, putting body and soul into the effort of solving the engineering conundrum of making pumpkins fly. It makes me proud to be an American!

The surreal scene: a strange cross between a state fair and an Alabama football game. Ferris wheels, food on a stick, and tailgate parties. But these weren't footballs. No, sir. No pigskin involved, only the lovely round orange squash.

The rules are clear: when it is your turn, you have 3 minutes to launch that orange orb as far as you can. But it must be intact when it leaves your machine, otherwise all you've done is make pumpkin pie--and anyone can do that.

You get one shot per day, three days in a row.

The first day, Friday, was like ballet dancers stretching before the performance. But day two, Saturday, this was the performance. Air cannon pressures were doubled; centrifugal machines had rpm's significantly increased; the competition was serious. Some rose to the challenge, others.... well, they made pie. Day three, Sunday, we didn't stay that long. There were pictures of the sun rising over the Chesapeake to take, and Alabama's sweet home was a long ride away.

However, according to the official results, only four of the thirteen categories saw a Sunday win; the rest were all Saturday's big performance.

My personal favorite was the centrifugal machine "Bad to the Bone". It looks pretty benign, until it starts to move. A propeller that is at least 30 ft. in length, spinning at least 200 rpm, making a fearful noise, launched a pumpkin 2,522 feet. Maybe not a world record, but it was further than anyone thought, and it took them an hour to find it.

Then there is the trebuchet "Yankee Siege". This 26-ton behemoth (yes, we are talking 52,000 lbs) has set a new world record in the trebuchet category every year since it was built: this year's chunk 2,034 ft.

"Snot Rocket", an air cannon from the youth air cannon category, won their competition this year with an impressive 3,630 ft chunk. That is further than more than half of the adult air cannon competitors. The truth be known, Team Snot Rocket and all the other youth competitors, are the strength of this whole silly competition. They will take from the experience the exercise of free thinking, the discipline of hard work, and the satisfaction of completing a project.


Next year's competition is already scheduled, Nov. 5, 6 and 7, 2010. A travel tip: Approaching southern Delaware from the Virginia eastern shore will take you over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, a ride over this engineering marvel is the whipped cream on your pumpkin pie weekend.


Anonymous said...

Winifred, I hope you found satisfaction with my report, I'm sure it wasn't as good as being there. I failed to mention that the whole competition can be seen on the Science Channel at 8:00 pm on Thanksgiving evening.


Wendy Haught said...

Your report delighted me no end!

And thanks for the tip about the Science Channel coverage.

Miss Win