Derbies, Derbies, Derbies!

By Loyd Dille
Cub Master – 4 years
Scout Master – 8 years
Derbies that I have done – too many to count

“Racing in a Cub Scout derby is great fun.  You’ll get to design your racing vehicle, work with a parent to build it, and see it perform on race day.  Win or lose, you’ll take pride in having done your best.  When you race in a Cub Scout derby, you learn craft skills, the rules of fair play, and good sportsmanship – things you will remember all your life.”

Why Derbies?


“Sportsmanship is how you act when you are playing a sport. A good sport plays by the rules and never cheats.  Playing fairly is a matter of honor and self-respect, as well as respect for opponents.  Play hard and play to win – but play fairly.”  Webelos Handbook

The Cub Scout Races are parent-son projects.  Please feel free to give guidance and minimal assistance to your Cub Scouts as they build their Race Vehicles.  This is a chance for the boys to be oart of a team, and enjoy the spirit of friendly competition with their peers.  It is also for your Cub Scouts to enjoy the satisfaction of building their own racers from the kits provided.

While everyone will be trying to win, it’s always a good idea to start out by remembering the Cub Scout Motto, “Do Your Best.”

The first thing to remember about sportsmanship is that everyone’s skills are a little different.

The second thing to remember is to follow the rules, without rules there would be no race.

The third thing to remember is there are winners and losers in every competition.  You accept this when you choose to compete.

Being a winner is easy, and losing is sometimes hard.  If you win, you must not brag or gloat.  If you lose, you must not feel jealous or bitter.

To be a good sportsman, you must be able to say “I did my Best” and be satisfied with the results.  You must also be able to appreciate and feel happy for someone else when they run a good race.

Types of Derbies

  • Pinewood Derby
  • Raingutter Regatta
  • Space Derby
  • Cubmobile Derby

Pinewood Derby


The pinewood derby started when Don Murphy was looking for a father son activity for the boys on his pack that were too young for the Soap Box Derby.  Boys have to be 12 years old to compete in the Soap Box Derby.  The Soap Box Derby requires a boy to race a homemade car down a hill.  Murphy came up with a plan to race small car down a track and the pinewood derby was born.

The Pinewood Derby can one of the high lights of a Cub Scout.  I should be a time spent with parents or leaders to build and race a car of his own making against the other boys in the pack.  Many leaders fear that the car will be built by the dad and not by the boy and the dad.  As a leader there is no way to prevent the dad from doing all the work.  As a leader you can encourage the boys to do the work but do not stress out about the cars being built.  The kids that you should focus more attention on are the ones that do not have a parent that will help with building of the car.  I find it best to know two or three people in the area that are willing to help build cars.


  • Designate a Derby Chairperson
  • Set racing rules and car specifications – Use only BSA kits, follow BSA rules
  • Set place and date of race
  • Arrange for a track – most Stakes have a track if your does not talk to Stake about having one built or purchasing one.
  • Select a race staff – Judges, Registration personnel, and Scorekeeper
  • Select a race scoring system – I use
  • Check-in and technical check equipment – assign to someone that will hold every car to the same rules.
  • PA system – A Must
  • Derby Workshop/Pre-race Check – This is good for boy without much support at home.

Race-Day or night before

  • Racer and car Check-in
  • Register all racers and their cars
  • Attach a number and Name to the car
  • Have the car checked by the Race Officials
    • Weight test – use the same scale for every car. You will be told “On my scale at home it weighed X.”  The answer to this statement must all way be “This is the scale we are using for this race.  You need to add to take away this much weight.”
    • Wheels check – the car should be race ready when it is checked in. Have wheels graphited before the car is checked in for impounded.  Use only BSA marked wheels.
    • Size Test – if possible have a piece of the track on hand so the boys can check their cars.
  • Impound/store the car
  • Car judging – every car should get an award

The Race

  • Staging and pre-staging the racers – Have Pit Row near the start line, this will decrease the amount of time to get cars to the start line.
  • Lane Selection and rotation, scoring method – if first time using a scoring system, give it a dry run before the race day. Derby Day software will do all of the scoring for you.
  • Car handling – I run a no pit stop race, no modifications to the car once it had been impounded, except for catastrophic problems (wheels fall off)
  • Awards for every one – need idea for awards look on Pinterest
  • Plan time for fun racing after the main event. Let parents know that there will be time for parents and older brothers to race the cubs. 

Raingutter Regatta

In a Raingutter Regatta derby boys race boats down a narrow channel of water.  The boats use wind power that is provided by the Cub Scout.  It’s called Raingutter Regatta because the boats were originally raced in rain gutters.  The gutters have since been replaced by PVC pipes or blow up tracks.


  • Identify a Raingutter Regatta coordinator
  • Determine Date – remember that this will be held outside. Have a plan in place for bad weather.
  • Determine and reserve location
  • Have a parent build a track or buy an inflatable one form the Scout store.
  • Review Regatta official rules and tips.
  • Determine whether to buy or make boat kits


  • Set up track – raingutter
  • Check for leaks and make sure track is level. Track will be bumped into so make sure it is secured.
  • Have practice runs – you will need extra water.
  • Setup registration table
  • Setup boat storage table (Marina)
  • Computer operator / Scorekeeper
  • Determine race brackets – you can use the same software as the Pinewood derby.
  • Awards for all cubs – have judges. Need ideas look on Pinterest
  • Clean-up Crew

The Race

  • Register and Number boats
  • Race
  • Trophies/Medals/Ribbons/Certificates


Hold the race at a local stream.  For example Little Cottonwood Creek in Murray park.  What boy does not like letting a boat float down a river.  This is a good time to go over safety around water.  You will also need a fishing net to remove the boats from the water at the end.

Space Derby

The space derby is similar to the pinewood derby, it uses miniature rockets.  These propeller-driven rockets are powered by three rubber bands and travel along a monofilament fishing line.  Boys carve and assemble the rockets themselves under the guidance of an adult.


  • Identify a Space Derby coordinator
  • Determine Date
  • Determine and reserve location
  • Have a parent build a track or use the chair racks at the building you meet at.
  • Review Space Derby official rules and tips.
  • Handout kits and filer with rules


  • Set up track – Space line
  • Have practice runs – you will need extra rubber bands
  • Setup registration table
  • Setup Space Station for rocket docking
  • Computer operator / Scorekeeper
  • Determine race brackets – you can use the same software as the Pinewood derby.
  • Awards for all cubs – have judges. Need ideas look on Pinterest
  • Clean-up Crew

The Race

  • Register and Number rockets
  • Race
  • Trophies/Medals/Ribbons/Certificates 

Would you like more information?


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