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Polytechnique Montreal races in remembrance at 15th ISR

By Benjamin McKnight III, NSWCCD Public Affairs | July 1, 2019

While 1989 represents the beginning of the International Human-Powered Submarine Races for most of those involved, for Polytechnique Montreal Technological University, it is a reminder of a much more somber time.

On Dec. 6 of that year, a gunman walked onto campus and killed 14 women in an attack that rocked the entire nation. In preparing for the 15th ISR, the Polytechnique Montreal team knew that they wanted to honor the memory of those victims during the 30th anniversary of the attack. Returning to Carderock to build off their 2017 performance as the second-fastest college team with a one-person propeller submarine, the team donned light pink shirts with a submarine to match.

This year’s model of Archimede is a complete redesign of the previous model, a strategy that team member Colin LaPierre-Fecteau said is a regular practice for the squad.

“This one is smaller, especially on the side. It pretty much comes to hip width,” LaPierre-Fecteau said. “It’s 15 percent smaller in length and height from the last submarine we had.”

A full overhaul comes with challenges as the trial and error process exposes the capabilities of the teams. Therefore, while teammate Alexander Richard pointed out the new transmission and pop-up buoy installed, not everything that Polytechnique Montreal tried was successful.

“We wanted to integrate an electrical steering system this year,” LaPierre-Fecteau said. “It worked, but there was a mechanical failure in the mechanism, so we switched to our backup system which is fully mechanical.”

Going into the week, the team had a very particular goal in mind: starting fast. Although testing happens throughout the submarine building process for the teams, the uniqueness of the David Taylor Model Basin forces even the most prepared squads to test as they go during the week. Making those adjustments often results in prolonged time lapses between when a team is allowed to begin and when they actually cross the starting line, an issue that Polytechnique Montreal proudly seemed to have mitigated.

“When we are on the race course, we don’t take up much time,” Richard said.

What this team did not have on their side for 2019 was experience, as this year’s team was comprised of nearly all first-time competitors. Richard was not too concerned with the lack of familiarity for the group, noting that it was important for them to use this week as an opportunity to prepare for the future.

“We want to gain some experience so that in the next years, we’ll have that built up experience in the competition,” he said.