Sunday 25 June

The birds woke us Sunday morning after the first dry night since we’ve been here. Shame, actually, since it meant that the dusty evidence of our late night sanding was there in the parking lot for every one of the marathon runners to see as they tramped past our worksite out on to the canal towpath. It was fun to watch them shake their heads in disbelief at our underwater bicycle project as they ran off into the distance…

By mid-day the final preparations were done. The hull was fully streamlined, with window and lateral line panels nicely installed and the old (now surplus to requirements) belly hatch buried under a smoothed over layer of body filler. The biomimetic fourple-fin propulsion mechanism was installed and tuned. Mechanical controls connected and working. Ready for the race.

Logistics has been the keyword this competition. Now the 620 kg of sub and kit had to be moved from the campsite to the base. Not nearly the challenge, you’d think, as moving it from Cleves to Washington, but with no forklift to hand, compromises had to be made. Managed to book the last UHaul truck available - just bigger than tiny, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers. By the time Claudio and I had negotiated Washington traffic twice, the clock had raced along so that only half an hour remained to get onto the base. A sudden whirlwind of activity overtook the team and the parking lot, and twenty minutes later, we were pulling through the back gate of the base with ten minutes to spare. Another whirlwind appeared, and suddenly Camp Rivershark was in place on literally the nicest site available (it’s nice to be among old friends who reserve stuff for you!), among the trees outside the David Taylor Model Basin. Now the racing can begin.

Well, yes, but first we have to survive The Briefing. Here we learned all about the various things we’re not allowed to do on a US Navy base, including not seeing the “element of air defence of the city of Washington” (we can’t tell you what it is, but google will be happy to show it to you…). The lecture included a warning not to engage in frat-boy shenanigans, lest some pistol packing federal policeman be tempted to cart us off to the brig in handcuffs. We learned that parking tickets on the base cost $250 to settle. We were introduced to the race itself, the timing system, diving operations, the scoring, the Queue, and where we can and cannot run or go barefoot. A lot to take in, but we got the message.

Then we got treated to the Pep Talk. We learned that former ISR races have some pretty spectacular CVs - one was even an Astronaut! Lots of opportunities to network, to get careers started. Most of it focused on US citizens, but plenty of international opportunities as well. “Who’s a winner?” we were asked. “What are your goals for the week?” Fastest female non-propeller time. That’s one of ours. Innovation - that’s our forte, and we’re hungry for it again. Apparently we’re also in it to finish classy. With flair.

The team blagged a hotel shuttle along with Bath to a beer garden in Rockville. Claudio and I returned the UHaul - Adventures in Moving, they said - well even returning the truck was an adventure, as there was no room in their lot. We ended up parking it on the grass surrounded by a sea of white and orange trucks likewise parked helter skelter over their property. It took a few tries after that to find the restaurant and rejoin the team (it’s on N Washington St. No, wait, it’s Beall avenue. Sorry, actually it’s on Main St…). Kitchen was closed by then, but the cider was nice.