A Tale Of Two Raft Races

It’s the height of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and hackers and makers everywhere are letting their hair down and enjoying the hot weather on the water. By coincidence last weekend there were two very different raft races in the European hackspace community, at the SHACamp2017 gathering in the Netherlands the villages competed in a cardboard raft race, while on the other side of the English Channel the various hackspaces in and around London came together in a raft race using more conventional materials.

Some of the SHA entries needed a little help.
Some of the SHA entries needed a little help.

The SHA race came about through the happy confluence of a surplus of disposable cardboard tents, a sunny afternoon, and the inviting waters of the Nuldemauw. The aim of the contest was for hacker camp villages to make it from the bank to the end of the boat dock, a distance of about 100m, in a boat made from cardboard there and then at the camp. Meanwhile the London spaces met at City Road Basin in London with their more robust watercraft for a series of races, the aim of which seems to have been to be the first to get their crew disembarked at the other end of the course. and sitting in a chair on the bank.

Full steam ahead for South London Makerspace. Toby *Spark (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Full steam ahead for South London Makerspace. Toby *Spark (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In both races the inventiveness of the entrants showed itself in a wide range of boat designs. As you might expect those craft with a wider beam fared better than the far less stable narrower ones, with capsizes a feature at each location. Clear winners in the Netherlands were a pair of German teenagers in a very stable wide raft, while in London it was South London Makerspace’s catamaran that scooped the crown. There is a video of the London race which we’ve placed below the break.

The hackspace and makerspace spirit is at its strongest when bonds are forged between members of different spaces. Skills and capabilities are shared, collaboration opportunities abound. The sight of a bunch of European makers getting wet might serve more as entertainment than edification, but behind it lies an important facet of hackspace culture. If you’ve not yet been the spaces closest to yours, do so. You never know, one day you might end up on a capsizing raft because of it.

Header image: Toby *Spark (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


5 thoughts on “A Tale Of Two Raft Races

  1. …And yet no mention of it on the main London Hackspace (Hackney) group list. Worried for their organisational health – big, but not terribly active, and mailing list very “fighty” lately. (signs of a dying org methinks :( )

    1. Well, then join us in Herne Hill :P

      The mailing list community is always been a bit toxic (sadly is very difficult to fix this for everyone), that’s why SLMS doesn’t have one, but we have a form, with pictures of our faces , to remind people that there are person the other side of the screen :)

  2. Here in Florida, for many years, we used to have a raft race in which your raft had to be built from scavenged junk, and if questioned you had to be able to document it. The only thing new you could buy or use new was glue, screws, and nails. There were contests for the weirdest and coolest rafts and of course for who finished first. But the real purpose of the race was for the rafters to pick up trash and garbage along the river as they went. The biggest prizes were for who collected the most trash! After several years, the race was so successful that they no longer have it, the river is now clean!

    1. When I was a kid back in the 70’s they had the Ramblin Raft Race on the Hillsborough river in Tampa. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to compete, but a mix of rowdy drunks and fear of litigation killed the event before I could. Now I’m a makerspace coordinator/librarian and bringing a modern raft race back is one of my long-term goals.

  3. Nova Labs, a makerspace outside of DC, just participated in the first Reston Cardboard Boat Regatta this past weekend. There was a Nova Labs team boat, another from a member, and the Maker Faire NoVa team boat. 20 boats raced this year, and sign-ups for next year’s race were on a lengthy waitlist by the end of the event. Photos at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1485372524818580.1073741833.313270418695469&type=1&l=f2c3e6fbd6

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