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Row, row, row your raft: The CSHL 6th annual raft race

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Eight teams composed of students, faculty, and staff competed for the title of the best handmade raft at the sixth annual Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) raft race. Dozens of friends and coworkers gathered on Airslie Beach to cheer their colleagues from the shore as teams rowed towards victory at one of the Laboratory’s late-summer events.

The tradition began in 2015, during the Laboratory’s 125th anniversary of its founding. It has been led by CSHL Meetings and Courses Program Executive Director David Stewart, who says, “I always liked it because there was a lot of sort of cross-fertilization: comradery between scientists and educators and people in offices, young and old. It’s been a fun event to put together. And it’s built up its own history and legacy.”

The rafts navigate a watercourse around buoys in the harbor. The entire course is about 300 yards, and each team’s time is recorded as they complete the course. Rafts are required to be built from scratch, using materials found at home or at the Laboratory. They must also only be propelled by human power, using oars, paddles, poles, or similar tools. This year the event was judged by CSHL COO John P. Tuke. Stewart says, “Judging mainly involves calling who makes it across the finish line first. And then it’s rescuing the people who sank.”

This year’s winning team, Apollo Blue Flying Squirrel, was captained by Andrew Mendelsohn, director of marketing, planning & IT for Meetings & Courses. The official raft race oar hangs in Blackford Bar on the main campus. After the race, which took place on August 27, 2021, racers and observers celebrated with wine and cheese near the beach.