11th International Submarine Races: Pre-game Check-outs

6/26 & 6/27

Me and Kim Malkoski outside the building!

I’m spending this week in Maryland at the 11th International (human-powered) Submarine Races (ISR). The races are held on the Caderock Naval Base in the David Taylor Model Basin, which is basically a pool, half a mile long, 50 feet wide, and 20 feet deep. It’s incredible! It’s so long, they had to calculate everything to the curvature of the earth to keep the dimensions consistent! The event is held every two years, and teams from all over the world come to compete. There were teams from Mexico, Bath, France, and several different states! Each team, we had 24 in attendance this year (which is a LOT!), brought at least one submarine (some brought two, making for 28 subs). The submarines are all man-powered, normally via some type of pedal system. These are “wet” submarines, which means that..well..they are wet inside, i.e. full of water. So, the driver is on scuba when they perform the race.

The Lift/ Dive station. The "pool" goes on forever...go towards the light! 😛

The subs race separately from eachother  and compete for the fastest times. But, the races aren’t just about who has the fastest time, or the best sub, they are about getting there; Forming the team, building the sub, and then actually bringing it all to the races. These teams are made up of mostly college and highschool students, all of which were just psyched to have come far enough to qualify for the races. It was an electric atmosphere.

My role during the past few days, and for the rest of the week, consists of..well…a lot of everything! I am on the Dive Staff and help anywhere I’m needed. These first two days I spent a lot of time helping with paperwork to check all of the divers and people in, and with tank inspections.  We had to inspect every single tank, including dive tanks, submarine tanks, and pony bottles to make sure they were up to date on everything.

Me in my DUI drysuit, all geared-up to help-out with the check-out dives!

If they weren’t the Navy wouldn’t fill them. But, most tanks passed, and then we put the almighty sticker on them, and the team was good to go! Well, almost. Most of the divers at this event only got certified a few weeks ago, and just for this event. So, we had to do a lot of quick check-out dives. Roberta Flanders and Kim Malkoski (Scall Intern ’08) were in charge of this, but I would go down with them to help supervise everything, and be the buddy to the odd man out. In total, we had to check-out over 130 divers. It was crazy, and we were in the water (which was in the 60’s) for periods of a couple hours at a time. I was happy and warm though, because I dove in my DUI drysuit everytime. Took a bit longer to get into, but it was totally worth it on the long dives! 🙂

So, once everyone’s tanks were inspected, and all the divers had been checked –out, and the judges had completed the dry-inspection of the team’s submarine, that meant it was time to get wet! In order to get the subs into the water, there is a lift at the dive station. The team rolls their cart and submarine onto the lift, and then we (dive staff) do a preliminary check on every diver and the submarine before we lower them down.  We check every diver to make sure that their air is on (you would not BELIEVE how many forget to turn on their air!), that both their regulators work, they have enough air, they have their weights, and that they did their tank straps right.

This is the Mako Sub, from Michigan, getting off the lift.

Then we checked the air tank in the submarine to make sure it was filled, on, and that the regulator worked. Once we did all that we had everyone put their fins on, then we lowered the lift, they floated their tank out into the basin, and they were off! It sounds like a lot to do for every diver, but we were an awesome team, and we could launch a sub, completely checked-out, about every 6 minutes. The only thing that slowed us down was the speed of the lift! The teams were great, and always had someone waiting to take their cart off the lift when it came back up, so we could get the next team on the lift in no time at all. We would start launching subs at 8:30, and by 10 o’clock, there would be something akin to 160 divers in the water, and umpteenth subs. And THEN, dive staff, but mainly the dive supervisor, Vin Malkoski, was in charge of all the subs and divers that weren’t racing! It was crazy! …and it’s only been two days! This is shaping up to be one heck of an interesting week! I can’t wait for tomorrow!