Then there was the race course.
The racing teams, most of them Swarthmore College freshmen, had to navigate a curving 300-yard stretch of the creek with ice-cold waters ranging from 2 to 5 feet deep.
The presence of a low-lying tree trunk that had fallen across the creek meant the boats had to ride low if they were to get to the finish line.
The contestants' "boats" ranged from a bicycle mounted on a plywood platform to a large cardboard box shaped like a canoe.
"Anything that will float can be entered in the race," said Swarthmore junior David Stokes, one of two self-appointed "admirals" in charge of the race.
One raft, the Delta Upsilon Indomitable, was made of empty beer kegs strapped to a piece of plywood.
Another was made of a plastic laundry basket with 2-liter soda bottles taped and tied around it.
The ships had names such as the Freudian Sloop, the PW3 Ghetto (for Parrish Hall, 3d floor West dormitory) and the Bandit Attack.
The only rules for the race were that one person had to stay aboard each craft for the duration of the race, and only human muscle power could be used for propulsion.
As the boats lined up at the start, the PW3 Ghetto crew displayed their ship's offensive capabilities, pelting the crowd of 150 cheering spectators with water balloons.
When "Admiral" Stokes' starter pistol wouldn't go off, it was a fitting beginning to a helter-skelter race in which a number of the "ships" didn't make it more than a few yards off the starting line before they started to come apart, with their crews scrambling for the banks as the boats disintegrated.
Others were seaworthy enough to finish.
In first place, with a time of 3 minutes flat, was the PW3 Ghetto, made of truck inner tubes lashed together, and propelled by several husky Swarthmore freshmen, and a dining-room tray bolted to a section of a bed frame for a paddle.
Second place went to the HMS Olmo, a craft made by taking the side panel of a bathroom stall, toilet paper and all, and buoying it with bicycle inner tubes and soda bottles.
"We came up with the idea just last night, as we were sitting around and talking, trying to figure out what to come up with," said crew member Ryan Scott.
Asked why he had taken part in the race, John Evans of the bicycle-and- plywood craft, the Dookie, answered in the spirit of the day: