With final exams approaching at Stony Brook University, students were looking to blow off some steam and release the stress.
So on Friday, some 3,000 of them surrounded Roth Pond in the middle of the sprawling campus and cheered wildly as 100 homemade cardboard boats, each carrying up to four people, competed in the 27th annual Roth Pond Regatta.
“This a crazy event. It’s always a good time,” said Alex Bouraad, 19, an economics major from Yonkers who coordinated the event. He wore a white captain’s hat.
The vessels were made of cardboard, duct tape, string and paint, and propelled by students with paddles. The competition was held in heats of four boats at a time, each vying to make it across the 200-yard pond first. Winners of the heats then competed for the championship.
Some 800 students either paddled or helped launch the boats, Bouraad said. There were all kinds of designs: sharks, pirate ships, even an Asian pagoda.
The event is the most famous campuswide tradition, going back nearly three decades, said Jeff Barnett, interim associate dean of students.
More than a few of the vessels capsized within minutes of launching, and the crowd reacted with roars of disappointment. Others were amazingly well-constructed, fast and seaworthy.
Andreas Stamatakis, 19, a physics and math major from Deer Park, said a team from his dorm, Toscanini Hall, home residence of the Stony Brook Honors College, started working on their boat a month ago. Typically, 10 people worked from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., from Thursday through Sunday nights. The night before the competition Stamatakis didn’t go to sleep at all, even though he had a test Friday morning.
“The man-hours on this were kind of ridiculous,” he said before competing in the first heat.
His team used computer software to design the vessel. The result was “Big Murtha” — a 19½-foot-long boat with a squid theme, straight out of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and in keeping with the regatta theme “Under the Sea and Far Beyond.”
They used about 60 rolls of duct tape and close to 200 cardboard boxes they got for free from the local United States post office. Local businesses donated tubes that had been wrapped with carpet and the boat-builders installed the tubes athwart the vessel, in a ladder-like progression from bow to stern, for greater stability.
Stamatakis was brimming with confidence before the competition.
“We did all the math ahead of time. This is going to float just fine,” he said. “I would feel comfortable taking this out into the actual ocean.”
In the end, the giant squid was named “Best in Show” as the most seaworthy, and was barely beaten by one other boat in the final race. That honor went to “The Spirit of Stony Brook” — a large, hexagon-shaped bathtub, complete with a shower head — constructed by members of the university’s marching band.