The Great Mississippi River Race for
Rett Syndrome, May 2001

Racing for Rett Syndrome
James Watson Signs Boat for Ambitious Cause

Press Release Courtesy of Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory
Media Contact: Jeff Picarello (516) 367-8486

January 17, 2001


Photo by Miriam Chua

James D. Watson (lower left), president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Nobel Laureate, signs the flagship Double Helix, to be raced by Clark Eid (right) and Kurt Zimmermann (left). The vessel will be used by the duo in the upcoming Great Mississippi River Race for Rett Syndrome in May. Watson won his Nobel Prize the 1953 co-discovery of the structure of DNA: the Double Helix.

Rett syndrome, a severe brain disorder that randomly strikes one in 10,000 children is a devastating and heart-wrenching illness. But a parent-team and one notable Nobel winner are resolved to help eradicate this disease.

Clark Eid and Mary Potter of Cheshire, Connecticut, were determined to help their 8-year old daughter, Amanda, who suffers from Rett syndrome. But resources for research and attention for the condition is limited in the United States.

Together, they conceived of a plan to raise both awareness and research money for the disease. Their concept: a 2,348-mile race down the Mississippi River, the longest non-stop canoe/kayak marathon race in history. Beginning May 5th at Lake Itasca, MN and ending 3 weeks later at the Gulf of Mexico, the event has been sanctioned by the American Canoe Association and the United States Canoe Association (USCATM). The USCATM will coordinate the event with Guinness World Records.

Participants in the race will use only human-powered boats to travel the river non-stop, around the clock, in the pursuit of a world record. Eid hopes to raise more than $1 million for the International Rett Syndrome Association's Permanent Research Fund and Rett Syndrome Research Foundation, two non-profit organizations who fund research for Rett syndrome.

Eid will participate in the race with his kayaking partner, Kurt Zimmermann. But no ordinary boat would do for this scientist and devoted father: Eid has built his own two-man kayak, the Double Helix,a 25-foot flagship crafted from thousands of pieces of wood and aero-space materials. The boat, named in honor of the genetic code, includes 30 feet of intertwining rose vines, spelling out the words "Amanda's Dream Keeper" in the DNA peptide code.

Recently, Eid and Zimmermann brought the Double Helix to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory with an unusual request. The duo, who exhibited the craft at the New York International Boat Show and several other events, wanted the signature of James D. Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA (a double helix) to decorate the vessel. "What would be better than a Nobel prize-winner signing the boat that his discovery inspired," said Eid. "We are grateful to Dr. Watson for his discovery, but most of all, his support of our event."

Seventy-two year-old Watson, an active outdoorsman, was honored by the request and impressed by the vessel. "It's a beautiful boat and a wonderful cause," said Watson. "These resourceful men will do a great deal to raise attention about Rett syndrome, and I salute their devotion and ambition."

Further symbolism was later added to the flagship Double Helix when Watson's life-long friend and co-discoverer of DNA's double helix, Francis Crick from The Saulk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif. signed his name alongside Watson's signature. "We are honored by the good wishes of these great scientists, and hope that great discoveries will continue to be made," said Eid.

For information about Rett syndrome or The Great Mississippi River Race for Rett Syndrome, May 2001, visit Clark Eid's web site,

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Catch Another Great! Adventure at The Mississippi River Challenge for Rett Syndrome and Leukodystrohpy, May 2003!