Pedal-Powered Boat for Trans-Atlantic Race Comes to Life with Autodesk Digital Prototyping Software

A team of British engineers relied on software from Autodesk Inc. to design a pedal-powered boat for a 3,000-mile trans-Atlantic race to raise money for charity.

The Project Torpedalo team used Autodesk Digital Prototyping software to design, visualize and simulate the carbon fiber boat that will compete in the Woodvale Challenge Atlantic Rowing Race 2011. The race starts Dec. 4 and follows a course across the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands to the finish line in Barbados.

Sponsored by Autodesk and other companies, the project is the brainchild of Mike Sayer, 27, and Mark Byass, 24, Bentley Motors engineers who also share a passion for athletics and charity. The pair will serve as crew members for the estimated six-week journey and are competing in the race with the goal of raising more than $400,000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association and Make-A-Wish Foundation UK.

“This entire project is an example of digital prototyping in action,” said Sayer. “We’ve worked with a variety of Autodesk software to fully design and engineer this unique watercraft with no physical models. We’ve had to take ergonomics, hydrodynamics and all kinds of variables into account to ensure that we produce a boat that is strong, fast, relatively comfortable, and, of course, safe.”

With the design phase of the boat complete, manufacturing of the boat is under way at Curvature Group and Norco GRP, and the team plans to have the boat in the water for outfitting by July. The watercraft itself is more than 25 feet long and nearly five feet high, with a carbon fiber hull and superstructure. It features a closed cockpit with an open deck front area and a sleeping compartment in the rear. The boat has full self-righting capability, which means it can roll itself upright without external intervention if capsized, when fully loaded or empty.

The watercraft is also equipped with a single pedal crank set, meaning the crew members will rotate pedal-powering it, along with a custom twin-blade, low-speed propeller. The expected cruising performance is three knots, with a maximum self-propelled performance of seven knots. Other features include solar panels, a water desalination system, 90 days of food storage and appropriate safety equipment.

“Project Torpedalo is an ambitious project launched by inspiring engineers,” said Robert “Buzz” Kross, senior vice president, Manufacturing Industry Group at Autodesk. “Digital Prototyping helps manufacturers develop more beautiful, economical and reliable products every day, but it is fantastic when Autodesk tools help make bold visions like Project Torpedalo a reality.”

Corporate sponsors, including Bentley, Breitling and others, have embraced Project Torpedalo. In addition, the team has aggressive charitable fundraising goals. The project is dedicated to the memories of the crew members’ grandparents, including Sayer’s grandfather who suffered from MND.