Of all the uses for pumpkin each fall, a motorized boat is not usually one of them.

Austin resident and jewelry appraiser Russell Orms took home first place in the motorboat division at the annual Pumpkin Regatta on Oct. 8 in Damariscotta, Maine. The Plundering Pumpkin led him to victory after seven laps past cheering fans.

“It’s the closest I’ll ever be to a Formula One driver,” Orms said.

Captaining a boat made from a 1,152-pound pumpkin doesn’t come without challenges — Orms had a close encounter with a rogue spider during the race while dealing with the simple fact that a pumpkin makes for the “worst boat in the world.”

“The hydrodynamics are halfway between a beach ball and a rodeo bull,” Orms said. “When you turn, you almost take on water. When you accelerate and especially decelerate, you tend to almost fall over into the harbor. The entire time it’s a balancing act.”

To build the vessel, Orms attaches a deck onto the flat side of the massive gourd, fits on a motor and adds appropriate decoration to fit his Viking-themed boat. It’s a cooperative process — he had help from engineers who work on naval destroyers at Bath Iron Works. He worked on three motorboats and assisted in completing six or seven paddleboats.

Orms started volunteering and racing at Damariscotta’s annual Pumpkinfest and Regatta four years ago after hearing about it from his mother- and father-in-law, who have been volunteers for over a decade. He came in “dead last” his first race but still considered it a success.

“I always say if you make it back to the dock dry, you’re a winner,” Orms said. “Not everyone is going to be a winner; there are a lot of accidents.”

But a legitimate win feels even better.  

“After four years of learning how to build and race these cantankerous art objects, a first place is definitely nice icing on the cake,” Orms said.

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