University club’s mini-sub races in England

The fully assembled submarine during one of the three test launches prior to the competition.

The fully assembled submarine during one of the three test launches prior to the competition.

SLt M.X. Déry, MARPAC PA Office ~

This week, the University of Victoria Submarine Racing Club will compete in the fourth biennial European International Submarine Race (eISR) for the first time.

The 10-person team is in Gosport, England, to race their human-powered submarine against 11 international university teams. It’s a race against the clock around a demanding underwater slalom course.

Club founder, Leading Seaman Manuel Dussault-Gomez, a reservist Marine Technician, is excited to see the submarine he designed and help build go up against some formidable opponents.

The UVic Submarine Racing Club came from a desire to compete, and to promote the field of marine system engineering. LS Dussault-Gomez began pre-engineering at UVic in 2012; he joined the Naval Reserves as a Marine Technician in 2013. During his QL3 course, he scoured the library for engineering books to help him design a submarine that could compete in the eISR.

He found a book by the German Naval Architect Volker Bertram on practical ship hydrodynamics.

“There are a number of coefficients with regards to the submarine that will reduce the drag once it is moving underwater,” said LS Dussault-Gomez.

From the nose radius, the beam-to-length ratio, the max cross-section of the submarine and the tail cone radius, everything is designed for efficiency.

“We did a lot of computational fluid dynamic analysis and we figured out that the boundary layer is tiny, which is ideal, and then as the flow of fluid moves downstream, the boundary layer increases and then in the back end of the submarine there is a sharp radius that we had to implement; because if not our submarine would be seven metres long.”

While a longer vessel would be faster, the European race is more than just a sprint; it includes a 25-metre radius turn and a slalom course. This forced the Submarine Racing Club to place the rudder far aft.

“By putting the rudder as far aft as possible we will attain a bigger moment of turn, a better turning radius,” said LS Dussault-Gomez.

Having a well-designed human-powered submarine is only part of the equation. They need a scuba diver pilot capable and willing to get inside the small flooded sub and peddle to victory.

Aiden Massey is vice-president of the Submarine Racing Club and one of two scuba pilots for the submarine, the other being Jaryd Middleton.

“The most challenging part is trying to manage everything,” said Massey. “You have to think about depth, you have to think about turning left and right, and maintaining the dead man’s switch.”

For safety reasons, because the submarines are flooded, a dead man’s switch is required in case the pilot gets in trouble; once released a distress buoy floats to the surface.

Due to the size of the submarine, which was designed to accommodate the six-foot-tall Massey, the propulsion peddles are only 30 centimeters, much like those on a child’s bicycle. This means peddling a tiny fixed-gear bicycle underwater to turn the coaxial shaft which powers counter-rotating propellers.

While most teams design their submarines and outsource production to companies, UVic’s Submarine Racing Club had limited time and budget, meaning they manufactured their own submarine.

“We built everything ourselves,” said LS Dussault-Gomez. “We didn’t outsource anything other than welds and our mold.”

However, he did not see this as a hindrance, but rather an opportunity to learn more about the process.

Learn more about the race here:

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  1. Marshall Quelch says:

    Looks interesting .I was in the RCN (reserve)r15338.1955

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