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Father-daughter-boyfriend build Urbanna Cup boat

From left, Kenleighe Longest, Randy Edwards and Kenleighe’s father Mike built “Bulleit” last summer. See Page A5 for more details on the Urbanna Cup, which has been postponed until June 18 due to pending bad weather.

As it was going to press on Wednesday, May 18, the Southside Sentinel was informed by event official Chris Riddick that due to pending bad weather, the Urbanna Cup boat races originally scheduled for this Saturday, May 21, have been re-scheduled to Saturday, June 18.

by Tom Chillemi

At the 4th annual Urbanna Cup Regatta on Urbanna Creek on Saturday, June 18, Kenleighe Longest and her boyfriend, Randy Edwards, will pilot the boat that the couple and Kenleighe’s father built last summer.

The Cocktail Class Wooden Boat Racing Association (CCWBRA) has developed a system that ensures close racing between these sleek plywood boats that measure about 8 feet in length and weigh between 75 and 95 pounds. There are two engine classes, 6 or 8 horsepower, with a top speed of about 18 and 26 miles per hour, respectively. 

Weight is added to boats with lighter drivers so the boats weigh the same to keep them competitive.

Kenleighe has been involved with the Urbanna Creek Cocktail Class since it began in 2013.

In the 2015 Urbanna Cup, she was registered to race someone else’s boat, “Double Cross.” Right before a heat race, however, they were unable to get the motor running. “I was rather disappointed that I wasn’t able to race,” said Kenleighe, an Urbanna native. “My dad, being the father he is, said we would build our own boat so I wouldn’t have to feel helpless again. It was then the first thoughts of Bulleit were conceived. 

“Bulleit” as in “Bullitt”
Boats are named after cocktails, a tradition that came about when the boats were being developed on the Corrotoman River in Lancaster County just a few years ago. 

Bulleit is a brand of Kentucky bourbon. Her dad Mike is a longtime Mustang fan. One of the more iconic Mustangs ever was the one Steve McQueen drove during the famous chase scene in the movie “Bullitt.”

Kenleighe will be sharing the boat with Middlesex County native Randy Edwards, who helped build it, for the June 18 races at the Urbanna Town Marina from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. With two drivers, Bulleit will have several chances to compete in different races, she said.

Driving “The Virginia Gentleman,” Kenleighe placed third at the CCWBRA Nationals in Rock Hall, Md., in 2013, and placed first at the Urbanna Cup in 2014. “However, I am looking forward to setting new records in Bulleit,” she said.

The Southside Sentinel asked Kenleighe to describe her boat racing experience. 

What are three things you have to do to be good at boat racing?

Kenleighe: 1. Be aware of your surroundings. You have to remember this is something people compete in because they enjoy it. No need to put anyone in danger.

2. Master the turns. Every course has turns, whether it is a hairpin or long sweeping turns. You have to know how and where to drive in them so you retain as much speed as possible while simultaneously saving time.

3. Know your boat and motor, and the competition you and your boat are up against. You and the boat are working as a team. You need to know what it can handle and how to make it perform to the best of its ability. Every boat has its strengths and weaknesses, as do fellow drivers. Be smart and safe.

What are some things to consider when racing?

Kenleighe: Races are rather complex. The outcome is calculated on different variables during the multiple heats, such as clean starts, not contacting other boats, and placing well in all three heats to see if you advance to the finals. If you make it to the finals, scoring starts from scratch. None of your previous laps count, which can be a good or bad thing. The finals is where you really have to show your skill and determination!

How long have you been racing?

Kenleighe: I was not one of the investing founders in the Urbanna Fleet, but I was there and helped with the building of The Virginia Gentleman. So I was there for the first annual Urbanna Cup.

Is your dad the “crew chief” on race day?

Kenleighe: Of course. I wouldn’t do it if he wasn’t there. Mom will be there for moral support and I’m sure Jonathan, one of my brothers, will be there for comic relief. My family is pretty amazing. Randy Edwards helped in the building process so he is pretty excited to also compete with Bulleit in the 6-horsepower heavyweight class. 

Did you help build your boat?

Kenleighe: Dad and I have always had projects together, and this one took the cake. Dad is the mastermind behind it all. I am fortunate to have some pretty amazing people in my life who helped out a lot. From family, loved ones, and friends, it was a team effort for sure. Each person offered a different perspective, input, and expertise to make Bulleit what it is today.

How many hours did it take to build the boat?

Kenleighe: My dad has a saying, “Who keeps track of time when you’re having fun.” All in all it has been a great learning experience. My dad always takes the time to actually teach me versus just doing it himself, which is one thing I am incredibly grateful for. It was also a time that Dad and I could head to the garage, put on some music, focus on a goal, and just be a father and daughter. Not to say that it didn’t get a little tense from time to time, but there were more laughs and smiles than anything else. We were also working under a deadline to get it finished between the 2015 Urbanna Cup and the Nationals in the fall of 2015.

The Sentinel asked Kenleighe’s father Mike what it was like to build a boat and then race it.


It was exciting to see the boat come together and then perform. Bulleit was a challenging build since we didn’t buy the pre-cut kit. We purchased the plans and purchased the materials and products. We traced the pattern on the wood and then cut each piece out. I like to teach my children how to do things using their hands, minds and tools.

posted 05.18.2016

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