Ship Science at the International 14 Worlds in Perth

The International 14 World Championships have just been completed in Perth Australia.  Ship Science graduate Tom Partington (2010) and his dad Andy were defending champions having clinched the title in 2018 in San Francisco.  They started the series well with a second and sixth in the first two races.  The windy conditions for races 3 and 4 resulted in damage to their bowsprit causing them to retire from both races.  This ended their defence of the title as only one race could be discarded.

Andy and Tom Partington sailing Penguin Dance (GBR1559) in Perth

However, not all was lost for Ship Science, Daniel Holman  who graduated from Ship Science in 2012 and his crew Alex Knight fought hard to the end of the regatta with wins in the final two races to secure second place.  The regatta was won by fellow British paring and multiple world champion Archie Massey and his crew Harvey Hillary.  Third place was taken by Neale Jones and Edward Fitzgerald to see all three podium places occupied by British boats.

Daniel Holman and Alex Knight sailing Helly the Pelly (GBR1556) in Perth

Great British SHIPS

If you have a little more free time over the holiday period then one way to relax might be to watch the second series produced by windfall films for channel 5 on Great British Ships. Our own Professor Dominic Hudson takes part in the episode on RMS Queen Mary. A fascinating episode, especially with respect to Queen Mary’s role as a fast troop carrier in WWII.

One aspect related to its encounter with a rogue wave and its resultant large angle of roll. An effect very nicely illustrated using the wave maker system in our Boldrewood towing tank. The programme presenter took to a kayak to demonstrate how vessels can safely pass through large waves head on but are more challenged when side on. If you watch carefully (at about 30 or so minutes in) although the kayak does indeed capsize in the extreme wave there might have been a little bit of paddle assist…

This is not the first time our towing tank has been used for TV programmes, see for example the BBC documentary commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland. The biggest impact so far is Dr Sally Bennett’s video of a large amplitude regular wave which so far has reached 2.9M views on YouTube.

Yacht racing forum 2019

The annual Yacht Racing Forum of 2019 took place in Bilbao, Spain during 25th and 26th of November. A host of key stakeholders participated including yacht designers, yacht builders, pro sailors, academics, event organizers and equipment manufacturers, all from the forefront of technology and the most important international yacht racing events such as America’s Cup, Ocean Race, Olympics, IMOCAs etc.

Awesome engineered foil

The University of Southampton represented at this very prestigious event by MSc student Mr. Menelaos Xanthis. He presented about work used for his MSc dissertation on “Keel failures:  A probabilistic structural reliability study using Monte Carlo simulation”. This project was conducted under the supervision of Dr James I.R. Blake and was presented in the session “New Talents in Yacht Design”.

Several topics of great interest were discussed during the forum. In the field of sailing management, the main topics where about managing events, races or sailing teams, but also about the future and evolution of sailing racing regulations.

In the design and technology field, the most prominent and recurring theme was the evolution of foiling. It was a common belief among the participants that foil size and importance will not stop to grow in the foreseeable future, and also because of the complexity of the system, electronics will be employed more frequently.  

              Of course, as in every other aspect of human activity, the topics of the environment and the climate were prominent. Of particular interest were the topics of environmentally friendly equipment including hulls, clothing etc, and especially the inability to produce recyclable hulls of high racing ability, but equally the impact that events and gear can have on the environment and how this can be mitigated.

It is also worth mentioning that as discussed in the meteorology and climate session, the changes in weather patterns are expected to impact heavily the ocean yacht racing events. Icebergs will appear more often and in areas where previously were not observed, and also the hurricane season will be less predictable, as will be the path of hurricanes. All these phenomena are expected to open new routes not previously accessible, but also potentially endanger participants in racing events.  

The forum concluded with the announcement of the Racing Yacht Forum of 2020 which will be hosted in Portsmouth.

Scourge of Ocean Plastics


How we deal with the seemingly endless tide of discarded plastics within our environment and in particular our oceans is an immediate challenge. Several teams of current Ship Science students participated in a competition organised by the Western joint branch of ImarEST and RINA. The challenge was to find a design solution that could cost-effectively collect and remove macro plastic from the ocean. University of Southampton teams were placed first and second. Diogo Figuiera Nunes, Alex Pardoe and Tom Kenwright proposed Oceanum Nova. A concept design for a fleet of catamarans that would act as mobile platforms for plastic removal. The USP of their design was the fact that it brought together many different designs that have already been tried and tested and were therefore confident that they would work.

GA of proposed catamaran

We face many maritime engineering challenges with regard to dealing with the legacy of past generations as well as the challenges of how we reduce future ship emissions. Modules such as a our SESS6074 Marine Safety: risk, environment and law equip students for the wider challenges of the future.

Our Master of Engineering degree has been updated to reflect the future challenges we all face in engineering in the maritime environment. We now have six pahways reflecting the challenges of decarbonisation, increased autonomy and digitalisation.:

(i)Advanced Computational Engineering

(ii) Marine Engineering and Autonomy

(iii) Naval Architecture

(iv) International Naval Architecture

(v) Ocean Energy and Offshore Engineering

(vi) Yacht and High Performance Craft

In future posts we will explore something of the exciting aspects of each pathway at Southampton.

Ship Science graduate conquers the Atlantic

Ship Science graduate, Calum Healey was part of the crew of Pata Negra, a Lombard 46, which was competing in the RORC transatlantic race.  They finished second overall.

Callum conducted research into the relative performance of two centreboard designs for the Merlin Rocket for his final year dissertation.  He undertook tests at full scale in open water, recording data to determine the performance differences.

The video below shows an interview with the crew of Pata Negra having arrived safely in Grenada.

New frontiers in maritime autonomy

It is an exciting time in maritime autonomy especially in the UK.  The recent Shell XPrize competition stimulated the sector to show how much progress had been made in the ability to survey the deep ocean seabed. Our own Associate Professor Blair Thornton was an integral part of the team that came second. The winning team’s uncrewed surface vessel Sea-kit was built in Essex and recently crossed the  English channel autonomously .

Render of Mayflower 400 concept – courtesy of Dr Nicholls Lee, Whiskerstay

An even greater adventure will take place next year when a Plymouth based partnership will attempt to send a USV across the Atlantic to commemorate the Mayflower’s voyage to the America’s in 1620.  It is great to see such ambition. We are delighted to see double Ship Science graduate Dr Rachel Nicholls-Lee’s company Whiskerstay involved in the design of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship and its futuristic design.  The challenge has excited interest worldwide with Professor Stephen Turnock interviewed by NBC in USA about some of the challenges the Mayflower AS is expected to encounter.

ASV Fortitude under test at Timsbury Lake

Two groups of our final year Ship Science Group Design project students explored some of the challenges and developed our ASV Fortitude between 2014 and 2016. Currently being refitted Fortitude is now one of our group of ASV based in our Maritime Robotics Laboratory led by Dr Jon Downes alongside our ASV CCAT3.

University of Southampton C-Cat3

We see autonomy as central to many future developments in maritime engineering and our new look theme in Marine Engineering and Autonomy for our MSc and MEng pathway reflects this with modules such as our 15 credit Master’s module in SESS6072 led by Dr Nick Townsend on Maritime Robotics which was one of the first in the world when it launched 5 years ago.

Maritime MASTERS rogue wave encounter with a floating offshore wind turbine

We were delighted to see one of our MSc Maritime Engineering Science student John Hayes present his impressive project on the response of a moored floating offshore wind turbine at the final of this year Maritime Masters competition.

He used our 138 m long Boldrewood wave/towing tank with 1:91 scale model of a spar buoy style floating wind turbine platform to investigate the level of motions that would be expected if it encountered a Rogue wave. This was just one of an impressive set of MSc projects finished this summer by our MSc class of 18/19

rogue wave encounters a floating wind turbine at model scale

In the video the rogue wave encounters a floating offshore wind turbine platform in the Boldrewood towing tank at the university of Southampton. A set of waves of appropriate amplitude and phase are generated from our 12 paddle wave maker so they coalesce as a short sequence of extreme amplitude waves at a precise location in the tank. In this case one of our MSc in Maritime Engineering Science had built a 1:91 scale model of a spar buoy style floating platform to measure the motion response with a realistic mooring arrangement. Motions were captured above and below the water using our 12 camera Qualisys system including the mooring line response.

IMO World Maritime Day – Empowering Women in the Maritime Community

In honour of this year’s theme for World Maritime Day 2019 on 26th September, we are delighted to announce our networking event Empowering Women in the Maritime Community. We will be holding a Q&A/networking session for women in the maritime sector, who will be sharing what they do, how they got there, and any advice they might have. The session will be relatively informal, with lots of opportunities to ask questions and garner advice. More details to follow next month:

RAENg Visiting Professor Dr Penny Jeffcoate

The evnt is being coordinated by Dr Penny Jeffcoate our RAEng Visiting Professor – Marine Energy Technologies and Associated Infrastructure.
Penny joined us in 2018 as part of the Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor scheme, alongside her current role at tidal energy developer Sustainable Marine Energy as their R&D Manager. This industry-into-academia initiative aims to utilise the experience of Visiting Professors to enhance student learning as well as the employability and skills of UK engineering graduates, whilst strengthening external partnerships with industry. Under the objectives of this scheme, industry practitioners participate in course development, face-to-face teaching and mentoring of engineering undergraduates at the host university for three years.
Penny worked with Maritime Engineering and Ship Science programmes in 2018-2019 to help develop the Renewable Energy (SESS6067) and Group Design Projects courses for final year students, to give them practice in industry methods, particularly in reporting and critical reasoning. She will be working with the department this year to expand this interaction and give students insight into designing to client specification and management practices. This develop will continue until the end of her placement in 2021 and will hopefully be used for many years of student intake to come. The RAEng scheme also promotes the encouragement of traditionally minority entities in engineering, such as women and BAME. Penny will therefore be organising an event in support of this year’s IMO World Maritime Day: Empowering Women in the Maritime Community.

It wasn't this whale's day – high quality imaging using autonomous underwater vehicles


A 3D image reconstruction generated using BioCam showing an 8 metre long whale carcass that is sandwiched between two large coral mounds.

A team from the University of Southampton has successfully obtained the largest continuous visual map of the seafloor ever obtained in UK waters during a currently ongoing expedition to the Darwin Mounds. The expedition led by co-chief scientists Blair Thornton of the University of Southampton and Veerle Huvenne of the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), deployed underwater robots to map cold-water-coral mounds at a depth of 1000m in a Marine Protected Area (MPA).
BioCam fitted on the underside of the underwater robot Autosub 6000 as it is recovered from the ocean after a successful mission

The autonomous robot, Autosub6000 of the NOC, was equipped with BioCam, a newly developed deep-sea 3D imaging system developed by the University of Southampton under the Natural Environment Research Council’s OCEANIDS Marine Sensor Capital program. During its first 24-hour deployment, BioCam was able to visually map the seafloor at 40 times the rate of conventional imaging systems, covering approximately 50 times the area of Wembley stadium’s football pitch. The example below shows one of the 650,000 images taken during the dive, showing diverse species of deep-sea life sheltering amongst the corals. BioCam also discovered a whale carcass more than 8 metres in length on the seafloor just a few hundred metres from a coral mound.
An image of the seafloor taken at 1000m depth showing diverse species of animals living amongst coral

Blair Thornton, Associate Professor of Marine Autonomy at the University of Southampton says, “The large area and high level of detail in the visual maps BioCam collects can help scientists recognise patterns and features on the seafloor that would otherwise go unnoticed, allowing ecologists to compare sites and document changes over time at much larger scales than previously possible.”
He continues, “It is fantastic that the system delivered results from the word go. This was only possible because of a huge team effort, with staff and students at the University of Southampton, local industries, and the MARS team at the NOC working hard together to develop BioCam and integrate it onto the Autosub 6000. Huge credit also goes to the ship’s crew for safely deploying and recovering the system in less than ideal sea states.”
Veerle Huvenne, Team Leader for Seafloor and Habitat Mapping at the National Oceanography Centre explains “typically, scientists map out large scale spatial patterns in ecology by inferring relationships between sonar maps and short transects of visual imagery (photographs or video). BioCam’s ability to continuously image areas in 3D over tens to hundreds of hectares gives us the ability to directly observe patterns over entire habitats. This is a powerful new tool for scientists to better understand these fragile environments”.
Hayley Hinchen, Marine Habitats Monitoring Manager at the Joint Nature Conservation Committee says, “The data BioCam collects could support marine conservation by providing vital evidence at a large scale about how effective measures like marine protected areas are at conserving our environment, especially in fragile, complex habitats that can’t be physically sampled. The evidence gathered could help us understand how damaged areas of the seafloor recover with time in protected sites like the Darwin Mounds”
More information about BioCam can be found at the following website,
Regular updates about the current expedition are posted on
Link to BBC article –

Inspiring future maritime engineers

The “Future Marine Engineering” is an exciting residential course, developed to inspire Year 9 students aged 13 to 14 about marine engineering and career opportunities in the maritime sector. The course was organised by the Smallpeice Trust with technical content delivered our own inspiring team of post-doctoral researchers, Dr Jeanne Blanchard, Mr Przemyslaw Grudniewski and Dr Yikun Wang, in the Fluid Structure Interactions group at the University of Southampton.

Wave Energy Trials in the pool

This year, 95 students took part in the 3.5 days course with the aim to design and build a wave energy-harvesting device and a remote control boat to simulate a maintenance vessel for their renewable energy farms. The objective was to provide a prototype design to generate as much power from the wave energy-harvesting device as possible and to develop a maintenance vessel that could quickly and reliably service the energy farms in an emergency. The students were given a limited quantity of materials to design, build and test their products with their unlimited imaginations. In addition, they were to perform a “Dragon’s Den” style pitch and to defend their designs against rigorous technical ‘interrogations’ from some marine experts.
Design underway

To help the students develop their understanding of the marine industry they were given different talks by academics and an industrial expert from Shell Shipping and Maritime. This culminated in a celebration of their achievements at a formal dinner and an opportunity for the students to present their projects to academics and Seafarers UK, who kindly sponsored the course. On the last day, the students have tested their devices and model boats in the swimming pool with great success, before attending the awards ceremony with prizes given by Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute and the Royal Institution of Naval Architects with the chance for the students to join the Institution as junior members.