The final day of SailBot 2013 had arrived, with Stationkeeping being the last challenge of the competition. As our challenge time-slot started at 9 AM, we where already out on the race-site by 8:30 making sure all systems of Thunderbird 2013 were ready for the last challenge of the competition.
Being Gloucester, MA, weather is very unpredictable and shifts a lot from one day to the other. While the previous day had a “Perfect Storm”, this day the wind was nowhere to be found. Occasionally some breeze blew in towards the harbor, but nowhere enough for us. As the Thunderbird 2013 depends on being under power to complete Stationkeeping successfully, this meant that we were in for a long morning waiting for the right breeze to come in. As the first boat in Stationkeeping that morning, we managed to complete the challenge in an underwhelming 5 minutes and 55 seconds on our first attempt, 53 seconds over what our code is set to complete the challenge in. The reason for this result was that the wind was just way too inconsistent during the time of our attempt.
As we waited for better winds, other boats arrived at the race-site, with Aber SailBot being one of them. During their first attempt they managed to get their Stationkeeping time down to a quite impressive 5 minutes and 15 seconds. Immediately after the first attempt, they went for a second attempt. As the time ticked closer and closer to 5 minutes, and the boat seeming to exit the box at just the right time, the UBC team paid VERY close attention. Amazingly, the team from Wales managed to exit the box with a time of 5 minutes and 1 second… We knew we were in for a looong morning, as the only way we could get 10 points in the challenge was to get the same time as Aber SailBot, or exit the box at exactly 5 minutes, both very difficult to do.
After a quick strategy meeting in our “Thunderbird One” chase boat, we decided that we were not going to give up without a fight. After fine-tuning the parameters in our Thunderbird 2013 GUI and waiting long for a stable breeze, we did another attempt. After some intense minutes inside the Stationkeeping box, the official jury stopwatch ticked closer and closer to 5 minutes as Thunderbird 2013 was on her way to exit the box. The UBC SailBot competition team where hanging over the side of our chase boat as the jury signaled that TB 2013 had exited the box. After what seemed like an eternity for the jury to give us the official time, we were truly amazed to hear the result…. 5 minutes and 1 second!!! And by that, UBC SailBot scored 10 out of 10 points in the Stationkeeping, but more importantly UBC SailBot scored a perfect 50 out of 50 points in the 2013 SailBot competition…. a first in history!
This amazing result could not be realized if it was not for the amazing competition team, the rest of the team back in Vancouver, our incredible industry mentor, our fantastic support from sponsors, and the public that has cheered us through this world record in robotic sailing! Thank you all for a great year, UBC SailBot truly has become a world class team representing a great university!