The Challenge

The eISR brings an exciting challenge to the sport of human-powered submarine racing. Where other races have focused on straight-line speed, the eISR introduces a slalom course. The emphasis is still on speed, but the subs score faults for all interactions with the course markers - the sub which finishes with least faults and fastest time wins!

Bath in the Lift

  • Course layout

    Retaining the one-boat-at-a-time, race-against-the-clock format of other human-powered submarine races, the eISR is an out-and-back race, with a set of slalom gates on the return leg. The figure below shows the layout of the racecourse. A timing gate is set up on the outbound leg, 13m long, 42m into the leg, so that speed records are reasonably compatible with those set in other races. Shortly after the timing gate, the submarines will have to make a sweeping 180° turn, on an approximately 25m radius. A set of four slalom poles are placed on the return leg. Subs have to leave the first and third poles to starboard, and the second and fourth to port. The poles are placed 13m apart. On the first race day, the poles are placed wide, so that subs can run a straight line through them. As the week progresses, they are moved closer to a straight line, forcing tighter turns. The slalom section is deliberately placed on the return leg to slow the boats down before they reach the finishing area. Any sub which touches the end net will score faults. The total length of the race course is approximately 175m, but the distances travelled by the subs may be longer or shorter, depending on how tightly they take the sweeping turn and slalom gates.

    Course marking and faults

    The Ocean Basin is essentially a very large, very well lit, swimming pool. The bottom is made of rectangular light-coloured concrete slabs joined by lines of black tar. The water is clean and clear, with horizontal visibility typically of about 30m. There are a lot of reinforcement structures along the bottom and around the edges of the pool, so pilots and support divers will have to take care when operating near these structures.

    The centre line of the course is marked out along the bottom using a weighted line and a set of small orange cones. The outer edge of the curve is marked on the bottom with a string of traffic cones.

    The starting line will be 30m from the end wall of the basin, and is marked by a pair of PVC poles placed on a tar line across the bottom of the tank.

    Timing gates are placed at 42m and 55m from the starting line. The gates are vertical PVC pipes anchored on the floor, placed on either side of the course. The gates are solid enough to survive impact, but will give way to minimise damage during such an event. They are designed to be quickly replaced and recalibrated after a collision.

    Two turning gates, consisting of a pair of vertical PVC pipes, are placed to mark the sweeping turn. Subs are required to leave a black & yellow pole (green in the diagram) to port, and a grey one (red in diagram) to starboard.

    Slalom poles consist of vertical ropes covered in swimming pool "noodles". Subs leave red poles to port, and green ones to starboard. The poles will initially be placed such that the subs can steer a near straight-line through them. As the week progresses, the poles will be placed such that the subs will have to weave between them.

    The finish line is marked with a pair of PVC poles and a brightly coloured tape across the floor. Pilots must stop pedaling, and engage their sub's braking system (if fitted) as soon as the bow of the submarine crosses the line. A submarine-catching safety net is placed across the arrival zone, 30m from the finish line, but eight faults will be applied to any submarine which makes contact with the net.

    The gate, marker and slalom poles are anchored with lead weights placed on 18" steel disks. Any contact with any pole will result in four faults. If the anchor is dragged off the plate, then eight faults will be applied. If a sub misses a gate altogether or by-passes a slalom pole, eight faults will be assigned.

    Submarines must remain submerged while on the course between the starting and finishing lines. Every instance of any part of the submarine breaking the surface will result in four faults being awarded.

  • Race schedule

    The Races will run over ten days. The first day (Wednesday) will be a dry day at the campsite of final readying and dry judging. Once teams clear the dry checks, they and their submarine move to QinetiQ’s facility, where the next two days are dedicated to diver checkouts, ballasting and wet safety checks. The Saturday is devoted to an Open Day at the Hilsea Lido in Portsmouth, where teams present their designs to the world and participate in public demonstrations in the Hilsea Lido pool. The races proper start on the following Monday and run through to the end of Thursday. The Friday Agility Competition is a separate event which teams must qualify for over the course of the week.

    The Checkboard

    The 2016 race will run in heats, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. Six boats will take part in each heat, as decided by drawing straws the night before. The Order of Racing will also be determined the night before, and will be followed as strictly as possible during the course of racing operations. Exceptionally, the Queue Manager has the authority to vary the order. Timing on the day will depend on many circumstances, but the aim is to launch the boats beginning at 0800, and start racing at 0900. The morning heat will run until noon. A one-hour break at lunch is planned to allow the staff a break and to reset the course as required. Any remaining boats will be launched beginning at 1300 and the afternoon heat will start an hour later at 1400. Racing will end for the day at 1700. The goal will be to be clear of the QinetiQ site by 1800.

    Subs will be readied in a set of three boxes (Ready, Set and Start) marked out on the basin floor behind the starting line. The Queue Manager (“Q”) will control the order of submarines into the Ready Box, notifying the Dive Controller accordingly. The Dive Controller will coordinate the movement of teams through the boxes using an underwater loudhailer. When a sub has reached the starting box, the crew have completed their final checks, and the pilot is ready to start, they will indicate their readiness to race to the Dive Controller, who will confirm the racecourse is clear, and give them the clear to start signal. The clock will start when the bow of the submarine crosses the starting line. Boats will proceed through the timing gate, around the turn, through the slalom section, and over the finish line. The finishing time is when the bow reaches the finish line. The pilot will then exit the submarine, and be brought to the surface by one member of the team. The other team members will return the boat to the end of the current queue, and prepare it for another run.

  • Aborts and safety

    While on the racecourse, the submarine will be followed by two inflatable boats at the surface, one carrying a team of rescue divers and the other a submarine recovery team. A pilot may indicate a non-emergency abort by releasing the safety buoy, opening his hatch, and swimming to the surface, where he or she will be recovered by the rescue boat. The tow boat will recover the buoy and haul the submarine to the surface, then tow it back to the starting area. If the submarine indicates an emergency abort (the safety buoy is released, but the hatch does not immediately open), or it is obvious that it is in difficulty, the rescue divers will immediately dive to the machine, extract the pilot and bring him/her to the surface. The submarine will then be removed from the racecourse by the tow boat. Once the stricken sub is clear of the racecourse, the rescue divers will return to the surface and inform the Race Controller, so that racing can resume.

    Repairs and modifications

    An important part of the Races is the on-the-fly repair, modification and improvement of the submarines during the course of the week. This year’s new pre-qualification requirements should ensure that all boats are ready to go on the first day of racing, but this is submarine racing. Stuff goes wrong. Other teams do it better. Teams learn from experience operating their boats on the racecourse and look to incorporate improvements and modifications in their drive for the top of the podium.

    Texas Fine Tuning

    Each team will be provided with a working space (dry pit) around the edges of the Ocean Basin, where they can do minor adjustments, and any work not requiring the creation of dust. Any dust-making activities will have to take place outside the building, and teams will use a gazebo to set up in the car park on the north side of the Ocean Basin building. All power tools will have to be appropriately tested, and personnel using them will need to be suitably trained.

  • Prizes

    Awards are given for speed and agility. The top prize combines the two, and includes a significant element of design and manufacture, to encourage creativity and innovation.

    Grand Prize - eISR Trophy and All Round Runner Up
    The overall winner of the eISR Trophy will be determined by a formula combining design, manufacture, race performance and reliability.
    Week's Top Speed
    The winner of this award will be for the fastest transit of the timing gates during the week. The sub must complete the run for the speed to stand.
    Agility Award
    On the last day of the competition, qualifying teams will run a double-length course, twice through the timing gates and slalom course to provide an agility challenge. Teams will have to qualify to compete during the course of the week: only those teams with a suitably high Completion Ratio will be allowed to compete.
    Award for Innovation
    This prize will be presented to the team, which in the judges' combined opinion, has pushed the engineering innovation envelope the furthest. By its very nature, innovation is hard to categorise, but the eISR's experienced panel of submarine engineers will recognise it when they see it!
    Best Presentation
    This award will go to the team which best presents its submarine design visually and verbally during the public poster display on the Saturday Open Day.

    Texas on the Way