Home NewsUnderwater Shipping World records set at the inaugural European Human-powered sub races

World records set at the inaugural European Human-powered sub races

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Omer 8

A new human powered submarine world speed record was achieved at the inaugural European International Submarine Races (eISR) which were held at QinetiQ’s Ocean Basin test tank at Haslar, Gosport, UK, when École de Technologie Supérieure, Montréal, Québec’s submarine Omer 8 travelled at 7.03kts over a measured 13m section of the course. This record has been confirmed by the International Submarine Races to have beaten the previous world record set at the long-running American races in 2011.

The one-man submarines are designed and built by the competing students at their universities, and when racing are flooded with the pilot – face down in the prone position – providing the power by pedalling while wearing SCUBA gear.

The inaugural eISR was “a dream come true” for Race Director, Dr William Megill, FIMarEST, Director of the Ocean Technologies Lab in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Bath, who has taken teams to the US races on three occasions. He first conceived the idea six years ago and was given a standing ovation at Friday evening’s Awards Dinner at HMS Collingwood after six teams, three from the USA, two from Canada, and one from the UK had competed.

The winning team  Omer 8’s sleek submarine was piloted by David Barry, around whom it had been built. Omer 8 also won the overall award, which encompasses design, manufacture, and performance on the racecourse – measured objectively, based on the daily top speeds and least faults.

The judges, headed by Vice Admiral Sir Robert Hill KBE FREng Hon FIMarEST, awarded points for the quality of design based on the written reports, and team explanations, during scrutineering. They also rewarded excellence in manufacturing, which they judged on what they saw during the dry inspections. The final pedagogical element of the judging was a ‘lessons learned’ report, which the teams compiled during the course of the week, in which they closed the experiential learning loop for themselves, and can now pass on their hard-earned knowledge to the next generation of competitors.

Omer 8 beat Talon 1 from the University of Florida by the narrowest of margins for the overall award – in the American races, which have a 20 year history, theirs has been a closely fought battle for many years. “Before coming here we were determined to win a new world record, but once we knew that Florida was coming, beating them was all-important, ” says Team Leader Emeric Robert. “In the end we managed both, but by the narrowest of margins.”

Andrew Spence of Florida Atlantic University described the contest as “nail-biting”; they were able to test out five of their team as pilots over the course of the races. Now the two teams plan to get together in September to train in the ocean off the coast of Florida, a far cry from the Québec team’s normal training pattern. Networking for all the teams has proved extremely valuable with experiences shared and lessons learned, and friendships made.

The University of Bath, who came in third place overall relished every moment of the competition, which saw some team members piloting their submarine for the first time ever. “We’re very pleased with what we have achieved, ” says team spokesman, Jenny Blowers, who piloted the craft on the last challenge of the day, the agility prize which demanded that competitors attempt two circuits of the Ocean Basin, which is the size of a football pitch.

Other features of the eISR were a day of underwater technology Master Classes, at which Prof David Lane of Heriot-Watt University was the keynote speaker; a Graduate Fair; and networking opportunities at the Submarine Museum and the Diving Museum.

The eISR was sponsored/supported by Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST), QinetiQ, The Society of Naval Architects & Marine Engineers (SNAME), The Society for Underwater Technology, Atlas Elektronik UK, James Fisher Defence, the BMT Defence Services, The Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust, UK NEST, Reson, Braemar Howells, Rolls-Royce and Ultra Electronics.

At the Awards Dinner Sarah Kenny, Managing Director, QinetiQ Maritime, praised the teams for being “immaculately well-behaved, professional, and mature” and spoke of the well-coordinated safety plan that was in place at the Ocean Basin during the competition, which saw over 280 gas cylinders filled, and 20 divers in the water at any one time. She added that she was “delighted and proud to see so many clever and talented women in the teams” – in all there were nine between the six teams. She also said how much the QinetiQ team looks forward to hosting the eISR again in 2014, when there will be more teams competing.

“We were delighted to sponsor this event, which shows just how exciting studying marine engineering (or allied courses) can be, ” says David Loosley, Chief Executive of the IMarEST. “The teams designed and built their submarines and, over the course of the races, made minor, and major, adjustments to them, showing how well they could respond to unforeseen challenges, and work as a team. Their dedication and ability was extraordinarily impressive. We very much look forward to being involved with future eISRs.”

Perhaps the whole event, which started on Monday 25 June and finished on Friday 29 June, was best summed up by Jonathan Davis of Texas A&M University who described it quite simply as “awesome”.

The official results  Overall results (in the order in which they were awarded at the Awards Dinner): • Presentation Award – Minerva – University of Bath • Speed – Omer 8 – École de Technologie Supérieure, Montréal, Québec • Agility (sponsored by James Fisher Defence) – Talon 1 – Florida Atlantic University • Innovation  (sponsored by BMT) – Wolverine the Submarine – University of Michigan • Overall Runner-Up – Talon 1 – Florida Atlantic University • Overall Winner – Omer 8 – École de Technologie Superiéure, Montréal, Québec • Judges Prize – Maroon Harpoon – Texas A&M University • And, the QinetiQ Prize Oscar – Archimede V – École Polytechniqiue de Montréal

Further information is available at www.subrace.eu.


Notes to Editors:

• Raw video footage is available (until 12 July) at http://wtrns.fr/lilLHL5K2Ex1dWM and http://wtrns.fr/prItz4DKcouXRy • Photographs are available from judithpatten@jppr.uk.com (one of the overall winning sub is attached with team leader Emeric Robert in the shot, but others are available … and this one is too in higher resolution if you need it). Pix should be credited to QinetiQ/Tim Hooper • A thought …….. with the 2014 races confirmed as taking place at Haslar (date yet to be confirmed), give some thought to following a team (there will be more!) during the design and build stage …… just an idea to sow at this stage!

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