The 13th International Submarine Races

This year the 13th biannual International Submarine Races (ISR) was held at the Carderock Navy Base in Bethesda, Maryland! The races are held to encourage and promote the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. High schools and colleges from around the world compete to build and race their own human-powered submarines.

The Malkoski family invited me down to Maryland with them to assist the dive team with safety and logistics throughout the week. I met the Malkoski’s at their home in Marion and we began the eight hour drive down the East Coast! Vin, Kim, Amy, Sean and I all carpooled together and we picked up Vin’s friend Neil Churchill, who was also volunteering as a part of the dive staff. Kim Malkoski was the 2008 Boston Sea Rovers Intern and she provided me with useful insight into both the internship and careers in Marine Science. Kim moved to California after graduating to work at the Monterey Bay Aquarium where she met her boyfriend Sean Swing. Sean and I had plenty to talk about since he grew up in San Diego! Amy Malkoski and I also shared the common love of photography and we took many photos of the event throughout the week. Amy and Kim (Or May-mer and Kim-Kim, as they jokingly say) both have an excellent sense of humor and I absolutely loved spending time with them this past week. Vin Malkoski is as genuine as they come and both he and Neil were excellent mentors to me throughout the races.

After arriving in Maryland, we spent the first day setting up and getting ready for the teams! The Carderock Navy Base has a testing pool that the races utilizes for the submarines. The basin is twenty feet deep and 1/4 mile long; this provides the submarines with ample room to be raced. Charlotte George was the coordinator of the races at Carderock and she served as the liaison between the Navy and ISR. Without her help, ISR would not have maintained such a strong relationship with the Navy. Jim Corey was the announcer of the races and he also was the designated speaker for many of the ISR events that week. Jim has a deep passion for the races because of the good will and sportsmanship that they generate. Jim was able to electrify the races with his quick wit and humor over the speakers.

Once the races began there were teams from all over the world present! The international teams came from The United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Netherlands, Oman, New Zealand, etc. The teams that represented the U.S. came from Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Washington, Texas and Michigan. All of the teams had to drive or ship their submarines to Maryland and they set up tents outside to work on the submarines. For some teams, simply being able to race their sub once all week was a victory.

As a part of the dive staff, it was our responsibility to ensure the safety and well being of all the racers. From acting as a lifeguard, screaming “no running” to checking tanks for their VIPs and Hydros, I was involved in a variety of tasks throughout the week! Kim and Sean preformed check-out dives with many of the new divers or those who needed a refresher. I was able to shadow them as we watched the team members preform their basic open water dive skills in the pool. A key component of the safety aspect of the races involves keeping track of who is in the water at all times. ISR utilizes a system of name badges that everyone wears out of the water and drops off at a table before going in. The woman who runs the table is named Barbara and I spent time at her station learning how she keeps everyone safe. She has been working at ISR for many years now but has superb vision, hearing and memory; all of which helps to ensure that everyone is accounted for.

Throughout the week I was able to dive in the basin and watch as the submarines were lowered into the water and brought to the starting line by the group of divers from each team. The pilots were escorted to the bottom on a diver’s air  and then they crawled into the submarine where they had their own cylinders to breathe from. The races themselves were exhilarating for the teams since they had worked for months just to get to the starting line. The entire basin would erupt in applause whenever a team would cross the finish line, since everyone knew just how much dedication it took to get to that point.

The atmosphere surrounding the races was extremely positive and all week there was an overwhelming sense of community and sportsmanship. Regardless of the country or placement of each team, everyone rallied when they were successful and was supportive when they weren’t. I loved every minute that I spent at the races because of the unique opportunity it afforded me to witness such immense human ingenuity and teamwork. Meeting racers from around the world and spending time with the Malkoski family was certainly the highlight of my week. See you in two years Submarine Races!!

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