Now for the story.
At the beginning of the pack meeting, we have the usual presenting of the colors, announcement etc. The meeting lasts for about 75-90 minutes with different awards being presented, skits being acted out, and scout business being discussed, all while the boys are sitting with their space derby ships (many of which are being damaged by rough handling).
Now the activities start and they have the pack split up into rank with each rank being assigned one activity station at a time. One of the activities being the space derby race. There are two "tracks" set up, each being able to run four ships at a time. There are two scout leaders with electric drills to help wind. They have figured out about how long they think it will take to reach "about" 100 turns on each drill.
They take the ship from the scout and tie a knot in the end of the rubber bands around the plastic dowel. The scout is then handed his ship back to hold while it is being wound. The scout master, or parent of the scout hangs the ship on the hanger and puts it in the starting gate. There are two parents enlisted to watch the finish line.
The leaders count down and drop the gates on both tracks at the same time and all eight ships race against each other with two parents at the end trying to figure out the first place ship. That scout was declared the winner. They then move on to the next group of eight and repeat. Winners are given a certificate and a pin at the end of the racing.
Most kids, my son included, spend hours shaping, sanding, painting and applying decals. They were given one chance to race and that's all.
They offered a free form run for anyone wishing to run more. I untied the knot and wound my son's ship to l00 turns using a hand drill. It ran on the same lane and took off like... well, like a rocket. The first time it move barely 1/4 of the track. The second time, it finished the race with power to spare.
I did the same for another kid in his den that was unable to finish the race and, again, his rocket flew the length of the track without problem.
At about 9:00pm on a Friday night, we head for home.
IMHO, if you are going to bother to have the space derby, you owe it to your scouts to provide better experience. There is nothing saying that a pack must run Pinewood, Space Derby, Regatta, and Cub Mobiles every year, but if you do, each event needs to be a quality event.
That being said, my advice to you is to step up and run the event. BTW - this is how I ended up running them all, because I had a few ideas that I thought might make things better. It is pretty standard in our Pack that if you think you have a better idea as to how something should have been or should be run, then step up and take it on; otherwise, remember that we are all volunteers and as such should be appreciated for what we were able to to do.
I applaud you for helping , but if you feel it needed to be done a different way (not that I agree or disagree that it did, as I don't know the Pack or their situation with their Derby), I suggest you talk to your Committee Chairperson and your Cubmaster. I would though advise you to map out a plan for what you suggest and the cost and manpower that you expect it to take. Coming prepared always helps.
If you want to know why this is my least favorite derby, it is because the scouts simply build it. To ensure things are as even as possible when setting the Derbies up to run, you need your adults to handle this. It takes 5 times, or more, the amount of time to get 4 rockets setup on the track than it take to run them. I find that if you have 20ish boys this isn't too bad (hence the reason we used to run this derby in July during the slow summer months in a generally 50-60 scout Pack). When you are trying to run 50-60 scouts, I would suggest that you run it the way we did the last time, in a fashion similar to our Pinewood Derby. We ran 5 heats at 10, 11, 12, 1, & 2, with our Pack finals at 3:30. Makes for a long day for your coordinator, but allows the kids to not "sit around" for a couple hours. It also gives you an opportunity to ask those volunteers that handle the rockets really well during the Division races if they will be coming back for Pack Finals and could help then.
Good luck regardless.