EPFL's lightweight boat wins the 2019 HydroContest

HydroContest EPFL Team took first place in the nautical competition with its lig

HydroContest EPFL Team took first place in the nautical competition with its lightweight boat. ©Robin Amacher

This weekend in Yverdon, the HydroContest EPFL Team took first place in the nautical competition with its lightweight boat, second place in endurance, and third place in speed with its heavyweight boat.

For the HydroContest EPFL Team, the third competition was the charm. Conceived in 2016, the team’s lightweight boat shone this year, taking first place in both speed and energy efficiency. It was a great reward for the students, who made the risky choice of a fast but unstable bifoiler. The EPFL team was also on the podium for the long-distance race, where they took second place, and for the heavyweight boat category, where they placed third.

A dozen European teams from six countries participated this year in the event organized in Yverdon by the three French-language universities: EPFL, the Haute école d’ingénierie et d’architecture de Fribourg (HeiaFR), and the Haute école d’ingénierie et de gestion du canton de Vaud (Heig-VD). Using the same engine and batteries, the teams had to design the most energy-efficient boat.

On Sunday, the final race in the lightweight boat category was a close call between Heig-VD and EPFL. Five runs were necessary for EPFL to win 3-2. In the heavyweight boat category, the final separated the long Archimedean boats of the two impressive Croatian teams. The Croatian Academy of Engineering also distinguished itself in terms of efficiency, surpassing HeiaFR and Heig-VD with its heavyweight boat.

Express fine-tuning

For the long-distance race, in which contestants aim to cover the longest distance with a limited amount of energy, EPFL students went it all out. "Half an hour before the competition, we modified our surface-effect boat - the heavyweight one," explains Sébastien Jaffaux, president of the HydroContest EPFL Team. "We took away its fan and the skirts that form an air cushion. It thus become a catamaran. We turned the engine over again, from propulsive to tractive mode. Finally, we added a foil." The choice was clearly a good one: like the Heig-VD team, the EPFL students completed 18 laps. However, HES crossed the finishing line first.

On the strength of their success, Lausanne students are already thinking about 2020. They aim to build a Swiss Solar Boat, and will use their current prototypes as test platforms for the 2020 Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge. The vessels in that event - another international competition - will measure over six meters long and have a sailor on board.


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