How to Make a Tuna and Maple Leaf Sandwich

World Tuna Flat Races 2017 Canada 150 tuna maple leaf sandwich graphic

Every spring for years, long before (as Rhys from the legendary Shore Club likes to say) “the eyes of the world are on Hubbards Cove” I worked on the creative direction and copy for the annual World Tuna Flat Races.

The 2017 World Tuna Flat (WTF) Rowing Races

(WTF: see acronym origin in the Graphic Language tag lines post.)

2017 was the 35th annual running of the World Tuna Flat Races and it was also the year of Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations, Canada 150, so the easy part of this creative process was theming the races WTF 150 underscored by “calories per 1/4 mile.” My thinking was that since CalorieLab calculates that rowing vigorously for 15 minutes = 187 calories burned, that’s not an unreasonable stretch from 150, and, since most contestants are neither professional athletes, nor strangers to the beer tent at this event, a caloric deviation would be allowed were there a international regulatory body of sober second thought.

The Challenge

Next up: the challenge to design the event brand. How in Hubbards Cove were we going to be able to squeeze a slippery wet tuna into or out of the award-winning, flat, non-slip, geometric, multicoloured maple leaf Canada 150 brand created by Ariana Mari Cuvin (see it alongside the tuna at the top of this post), or vice versa.

Mabelle Rubia and I started by Red Green-ing Ms. Cuvin’s design to its core DNA until we had the pieces below left to work with:

The Puzzle

At first glance, the disassembled version of Ms. Cuvin’s creation looks a lot like someone gave five-year-old kindergarten students a jug of overproof Kool-Aid®, a ream of coloured construction paper and some child-proof scissors. But when you stop and think about it, you’ll see the sheer genius on her part in arranging these 14 coloured polygons into a maple-leafed shape (not unlike Gordon Gould, who woke up one morning and realized how to build the first laser).

Minutes later we were on the floor like the aforementioned 5-year olds, +coffee -sugary-syrupy-flavoured water = a puzzle-piecing pandemonium with tempers not unlike some of Canada’s national graphic design community in their firestorm of protest when they discovered a young student, not an accredited advertising agency, had submitted the winning Canada 150 artwork. The Government of Canada ended up spending about a half a billion dollars on the event, in no small part, featuring Ms. Cuvin’s creation. Here’s Beaverton’s, April 2017, satirical look at where most of the Canada 150 budget went.

The Process

Craft a cubist tuna flat dory from them? Try to letter Hubbards Cove with them? Colour the words World Tuna Flat Rowing Races or the letters therein with them? Argh Billy! How could we make our young-by-comparison, 35-year old, 1/4 mile dory racing event look as good or better than our nation’s sesquicentennial summer-long, big budget, taxpayer-funded blast? Like writing, you just have to have faith and keep putting pen to paper, “Bird by Bird” as Anne Lamott most famously says, until something clicks, chirps, moos, or with a little luck, swims.

Three cubism-style birds in a row
Olga Varlamova Cubism Cow WTF 2017 colours

The Magic Moment

And then, Eureka! One reconstituted, 14-piece, cubism-inspired, Cuvin-parodied, Gould-motivated, Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, à la Canada 150 cutouts and colours:


We inaugurated the hashtag #ROCL which stands for Rowing on the Cove Laughing (as opposed to rolling on the floor laughing) in 2016 to hashtag the fun that everyone has at this raucous, sometimes Bluegrass, oft costumed, come-one-come-all event, which usually takes place the third weekend in July each year on the Community Waterfront in Hubbards Cove, Nova Scotia.

Getting the Garb

You won’t find these limited edition, 2017 WTF 150 tees at Canada Goose, Roots, Red Canoe or East Coast Lifestyle. If you didn’t grab one on the Hubbards Waterfront on the day of the races you might not be totally S.O.L. One of these places might still have your size or know who does: Aspotogan Heritage Trust, Lola’s Landing, Trellis Café, Hubbards Beach Campground or the Tuna Blue Bar & Grill overlooking beautiful Hubbards Cove.

Thanks, as always to Ross at Talbot Promotions in Halifax for staying up night after night, licking and sticking the stacks of rainbow-tuna polygons onto the t-shirts for us.

Get your team ready for the next WTF!

World Tuna Flats Rowing Races event details and registration are usually on their Facebook page at about the time the ice has melted off the cove.

Retrospective 2016

2016 World Tuna Flat Races Artwork, dory on waves with tuna underneath and the text

In 2016 we labelled the event “The Thirty-foarth Annual,” a misspelling of fourth and oar, since rowing with wooden oars is how the heavy wooden dories are propelled over the 1/4 mile course in Hubbards Cove. Read more on that, other Graphic Language tag lines, and a short-eared owl.

Category: Copywriting, Creative Direction, Work