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UBC SailBot wins third year in a row

DH Vancouver Staff Jun 20, 2014 8:05 am

After winning first place with a perfect score at the 2014 International Robotic Sailing Regatta (IRSR), the UBC SailBot team is already planning its comeback for the MicroTransat challenge in 2015.

The 2014 competition, which concluded on June 13 in San Francisco, marks the third consecutive win and second time earning a perfect score of 50/50 for the UBC SailBot.

“Winning the competition is not the main goal; it is more of a ‘passion’ project,” said 21-year-old student Youssef Basha who’s been involved in the team for the past two years.

The third-year, electrical engineering UBC student says that many professional companies make it their business to build such autonomous boats but rarely succeed.

Founded in 2002, the UBC SailBot is a student-based team focused on designing and manufacturing high-performance, robotic sailboats.

“What makes this unique is that it is something that has never been done before,” said Basha. “When people hear about this project, they want to shake your hand.”

Under the mentorship and guidance of Don Martin, a world-class yacht designer, and the leadership of team captain Kristoffer Vik Hansen, the group’s current project is a six-meter long beast of a robotic sailboat, which the students plan to launch by August 2015.

In IRSR race, the boats are tested on many aspects, including their precision in autonomous navigation, presentation of design, construction and innovation, and long distance (10 km) race.

Aside from this race, the students also take part in the Microtransat Challenge, an initiative that impacts fields such as marine robotics, energy efficiency and composite materials.

Even though the UBC project is not included in any curriculum and does not provide financial incentives, it offers higher rewards for students.

“It means a lot more than a 90 per cent average,” said Basha. “You get bragging rights.”

In the last decade, the team has grown from nine to 50 registered members. Currently, it consists of units that draw talents from different departments at UBC as follows:

  • Mechanical unit: mechanical engineering
  • Electrical unit: electrical engineering
  • Software unit

Their chief ambition is to enter into the history books as the first team to sail the Atlantic Ocean autonomously. “I love talking about the boat,” said Basha. “I feel like new parents who cannot shut up about the their children.”


Feature image: Thunderbird 2013 robotic sailboat sailing in Gloucester, MA, June 2013.
Photo credit: UBC SailBot archives

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DH Vancouver Staff
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