Success for Switzerland and for France in the HydroContest 2016


The top Swiss and French schools have dominated the 2016 edition of the HydroContest. In the “light weight” category, the Centrale from Nantes affirmed their authority, whilst against all odds, ENSTA Bretagne – Paris-La-Villette won in the “heavy weight” category. The long-distance race was marked by the triumph of Freiburg’s Haute Ecole d’Ingénierie et d'Architecture (HEIA).

Working hard into the small hours, las-minute modifications, continuously exchanging, the 250 students competing in the HydroContest gave their all in order to hone their boats in these final stages. A collection of very different prototypes began competing on Thursday and produced some stunning racing.

There was bound to be quite a show from the eighth finals onwards with four boats racing against each other. Two prototypes competed on each course, requiring even greater precision and skill of the pilots. The favourites were true to form in both categories, with the exception of the surprise elimination of the EPFL in the quarter-finals of the “heavy weight” category. Their reference time during qualifications had made this team the natural favourite.



In the end, two French teams came out on top. During the qualifications, Nantes’ Centrale had established the best time in the light weight category and took first place in difficult weather conditions. With a simple design and a classic displacement catamaran, the team from Nantes won the final in a 100% French derby against the ENSTA Bretagne – Paris-La-Villette.


ENSTA Bretagne – Paris-La-Villette lined up in another final, in the “heavy weight” category, which they won in a very tight match against the Swiss from the HEIA in Fribourg. The Swiss team tried to make a comeback with two difficult matches, before seeing victory slip through their fingers on a last leg in a nail-biting finish for 4 tenths of a second.


The long-distance race was run in a fun atmosphere. All 24 universities set out on a race-quiz-swimming-paddle relay before racing their boats in an endurance race. The HEIA from Fribourg, las year’s winner in this category, won again finishing the two hours of racing in a downpour.


The Innovation prize in the “light weight” category was won by the EPFL with their flying prototype. Always at the leading edge of technology, the local students used a “palper”, a rod in contact with the water to self-regulate the boat’s flying height. This, combined with an inertial navigation system, technology often used by drones, enabled this revolutionary prototype created by the team from Lausanne to be self-stabilising.


As for the “heavy weight” category, the innovation prize was awarded to the HEIG team from Vaud, optimising fluids on the boat’s propulsion. They still have a lot of work ahead of them, but their idea is an interesting one.


The Eco-design prize, awarded by Roland Jourdain’s Fondation Explore, was won by the EPFL. An extremely well-developed environmental impact study of their boat set them apart from the other teams.

The Communication prize was won by Southampton whose clear and organised promotion was combined with a touch of very British humour. Their crash into the pontoon at the start of the week was turned into a humoristic video.


Lastly, the HydroContest Spirit prize, based on teams’ votes, went to Fribourg’s HEIA, for always being ready to lend a helping hand to other teams, even when they were in direct competition. The Fribourg team’s good humour was infectioous and gave the village a festive and friendly atmosphere.




Winners :

“Light weight” category Trophy: Centrale Nantes (France)

“Heavy weight” category Trophy: ENSTA Bretagne – Paris-La-Villette (France)

Long-distance race category Trophy: HEIA Fribourg (Switzerland)

“Light weight” Innovation prize: EPFL (Switzerland)

“Heavy weight” Innovation prize: HEIG-VD (Switzerland)

Eco-Design prize: EPFL (Switzerland)

Communication prize: University of Southampton (England)

HydroContest Spirit prize: HEIA Fribourg (Switzerland)

Share this article