HYDROcontest 2014: looking back over the first success

HYDROcontest, the first environmentally responsible student competition, brings together young engineers from around the world in the name of energy efficiency. A fantastic breeding ground for talent, HYDROcontest has already produced many success stories and striking innovations. A look back at the flagship event of the Hydros Foundation

"More than just a race - a real incubator of ideas"

Lausanne, 21 July 2014, 120 students and 17 prototypes descend on the HYDROboat tent, the teams' paddocks for the seven days of the competition. The students come from Brazil, Switzerland, Australia, Colombia, France and the Netherlands, and all share the same desire to battle it out against one other on the waters of Lake Geneva. Their eyes light up as they present their prototypes to the visitors, the fruit of many months of research, design, and construction.


More than just a race – a real incubator of ideas


HYDROcontest, the first environmentally responsible student competition, brings together young engineers from around the world in the name of energy efficiency. A fantastic breeding ground for talent, HYDROcontest has already produced many success stories and striking innovations. A look back at the flagship event of the Hydros Foundation.

Transporting more, faster, and using less energy – this is the goal of the HYDROcontest. The foundation provides each participating school with identical batteries and electronic motors prior to the contest. Apart from following a few simple rules, staying within the maximum dimensions of 2.50 x 2.50 x 2.00 m, and refraining from using any other mode of propulsion for their remote-controlled boats, the teams are given free reign for designing the most energy-efficient boat. The students competed in two categories: "private boats", which covers passenger transport on a pleasure boat holding 20 kg of ballast; and "mass transport", which replicates the movement of cargo with 200 kg of ballast onboard.


Four specific technologies for efficient maritime transport


Throughout the week, the students continued to optimise their boats to meet this formidable architectural challenge and show that it is possible to improve performance while consuming less energy. Difficulties experienced by some were resolved by other teams sharing their knowledge in a spirit of cooperation. Among the many innovations put forward by the participants, we will focus on three that featured in this first competition.

Part boat, part submarine, the hybrid prototype developed by ENSM Marseille was popular among spectators. Their concept of a semi-submersible hydrofoil is derived from the SWATH (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull), a catamaran which has minimal contact with the water's surface. The boat presented by the Hydro Tech team, which competed in the "mass transport" category, is a monohull vessel comprising a fully submerged torpedo loaded with goods, connected by a keel wing to a float, which ensures the stability of the vessel and serves as a walkway. The students from Marseilles distinguished themselves with the addition of a self-stabilising hydrofoil on the keel wing, which improves buoyancy above the water, meaning that the boat is no longer affected by waves and has very little drag compared to conventional boats. This translates into a significant improvement in performance, consumption and ease of navigation. EPFL, which also opted for a boat based on SWATH principles, proved the efficacy of the concept, not only by finishing the competition in second place, but more importantly by setting the best time for the category, leagues ahead of conventional, floating boats.


 LA13423 - copie


Meanwhile, the Swiss team of Haute Ecole Arc set themselves apart with their variable-pitch propeller, also known as the controllable-pitch propeller. The task of a propeller is to convert the rotational motion of the motor into thrust. Its performance is based on its diameter, which defines the power of the propeller, the number of blades, and finally its pitch, which determines the distance covered by a complete turn of the propeller. The mechanism of the variable pitch allows the speed of the propeller rotation to be modified by changing the slant of the blades, enabling the boat to adjust its propulsion in line with the weight onboard. These propellers produce better propulsion efficiency as well as manoeuvrability and significantly reduce energy consumption thanks to their more efficient use of the motor.


 LA13574 - light


Another boat which generated a great deal of discussion during this first year's HYDROcontest is that developed by the Colombian team, GEPAR. Made entirely of recycled PET resin, their vessel lays the foundations for maritime transport that is more respectful of the planet's resources, particularly with regard to the construction and dismantling phases. Their project is based completely on the concept of circular economy, according to which products at the end of their life are dismantled and their components reused in the manufacture of new products, thus limiting the use and waste of raw materials.

In the light vessels category, the Swiss students from EPFL and the Australian students from the Australian Maritime College caused a stir with their flying hydrofoils. Submerged wings fitted under the boat's hull lift the boat and enable it to remain above the water, thereby reducing its hydrodynamic drag considerably. Given that drag accounts for 80% of the loss of speed of a boat, the gains in terms of consumption and performance are considerable. It is therefore hardly surprising that the team from Tasmania recorded the best time in the "private boats" category of the HYDROcontest.


Efficiency rewarded


After four days of competition, suspense and twists, it was Haute Ecole Arc Ingénierie Saint-Imier which picked up the HYDROcontest prize for efficiency in the "mass transport" category, while the ENS d’Architecture de Paris la Villette, associated with the ENS de Techniques Avancées de Bretagne, won it in the "private boats" category, and also carried off the prize for best design and the Long Distance Race trophy.


 LA14505 - light


In the "mass transport" category, the best technological creativity prize was awarded to ENS Maritime de Marseille for their semi-submersible hydrofoil and to the Australian Maritime College in the "private boats" category for their flying catamaran. Finally, the prize for best communication about the project was won by the ENS Maritime du Havre.


 LA13960 - light


Buoyed by the success of the first competition, sponsored by astronaut Claudie Haigneré, President of Universcience, the Hydros Foundation, which is now focusing on HYDROcontest 2015, is further strengthening its commitment to developers of innovative projects to help spark new ideas, make their vision of efficient transport a reality, and ensure that this knowledge is shared

Share this article