RGU students battle it out in land yacht race at Balmedie

Balmedie Beach was once again turned into the venue for a hotly contested land yachts race featuring young engineers from Robert Gordon University (RGU) last week.

Land Yachts race 2016Over 130 students, divided into 19 teams, went head-to-head at the beach on Friday, April 15, to put land yachts they have designed and built to the test.

The third-year engineering students had been hard at work since February designing, constructing and assembling their yachts as part of a student project aimed at encouraging mathematical, analytical and team working skills.

The land yachts are comprised of a two-metre go-kart style body with brakes, steering and a sail, and were conceived and built entirely by the students within their teams.

No pushing or pulling of the land yachts was allowed, regardless of wind conditions, so the yachts had to be augmented by either pedal or mechanical power.

The teams were given three attempts to complete a 100m time trial across the beach weaving through obstacles to test their manoeuvrability, brakes, steering and the pilot’s handling skills, with gold, silver and bronze trophies presented to the three fastest teams.

It was Team K who were crowned the winners, with a time of 22.46 seconds; followed by Team J in 26.58 seconds; and Team I 35.45 seconds.

Land Yachts race 2016Certificates will also be presented to the best three teams following assessment of build quality, functionality, safety features, performance timings and structural integrity of the yachts after the race.

The students carefully researched and designed their yacht designs before setting to work on the fabrication process with a budget of £200 per team.

The teams primarily use recycled materials such as old bikes, tarpaulins and wheels, assisted by university technical services staff with any required welding.

Dr Sha Jihan, module co-ordinator from the School of Engineering, said: “The wind speed was good throughout the race event amidst the cold rain showers which delayed the start of the race at Balmedie Beach.

"All teams arrived with high levels of motivation and braved the weather condition to test their land yachts at the beach. It was a challenging task for students to have tested their land yacht to their full potential and they have experienced the effect the forces of nature have on their land yacht design and built.
"After the first run students were offered hot soup and bread to boost their stamina to continue with a second run. Three teams succeeded in the time trials with the fastest timings. The robustness of the structural and sail designs of these teams met the challenge posed by the strong winds and soft sand.
"Overall the race event was a worthwhile hands-on practical activity for the students in the form of a competition. The presence of the academic, technical and administrative staffs from the School of Engineering provided great support in making this event a success."

Allan Richmond (21), team co-ordinator for ‘Holy Ship’, said: “The yacht was still in one piece by the end of our first run, so that was good! I’m pleased with how it went, the yacht seemed to work well although we’ve had one issue with the wheel. The project itself has been great fun, it’s been a great learning curve. It’s good to get hands on and actually build something.”

He added: “It was very wet this morning but at least it’s windy as I know in previous years it hasn’t been.”

Caitlin Dow (20), team co-ordinator for ‘Dodgy and Dangerous’, said: “The race went pretty well – we weren’t expecting too much but I think we got quite lucky in that run. Our yacht is a lot lighter than some of the others but most of the weight comes from the mast which is why it’s been able to hold up when some have snapped.”

She added: “It’s been the first of this type of project that we’ve done so there’s been a few learning curves but it’s been great working as a team.”

See a photo gallery of the 2016 land yacht race

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Jenny RushCommunications Officer | Design and Technology