GOSPORT, England (Reuters) – In a big pool in southern England this week, mini submarines have been participating in an uncommon race. Far from being diesel or nuclear vessels, they’re powered by scuba divers pedaling furiously.
The fourth biennial European International Submarine Race in the city of Gosport has seen groups of college college students construct and race in a contest that mixes sport and engineering.
“It’s an underwater bicycle … Teams of engineers from all over the world have got to build a three meter-long streamline submarine that they have to propel with muscle power alone,” race director William Megill stated.
“It’s a big challenge involving biomechanics, mechanical design, the flow structures and indeed materials.”
Teams from the Netherlands and Canada and elsewhere introduced their submarines for the occasion which ends on Friday with prizes for innovation, velocity and agility.
One craft at a time tackles the out-and-back slalom course in the pool at British protection firm Qinetiq’s Ocean Basin testing facility, which measures 122 meters (400 ft) and is 5.5 meters deep.
According to organizers, there are timing gates at 42 meters in addition to 55 meters from the beginning and a few vessels reached speeds of six-seven knots.
“The main challenge of our sub is finding a sweet spot during the acceleration part at the beginning,” Robin Van der Sande of the Wasub group stated.
“If we accelerate too fast our sub is doing some strange things but once we are on speed it feels wonderful.”
Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg