IN: Inspiration

Concrete to float your boat

These local and international concrete boat races demonstrate the material’s endless possibilities.


The Concrete Canoe Regatta in Germany

The Concrete Canoe Regatta is a two-day concrete canoe race that takes place on the Rhine River in Cologne, Germany. It challenges participants to create the lightest and fastest canoe and race it 200 metres without sinking. The rule is simple; no material other than concrete can be used to build the canoes. In June 2017, over 1 000 participants from universities from all over Europe raced 90 boats made entirely out of concrete – all for the coveted first prize of Best Design Innovation.

A research team from ETH Zurich, a university based in Zurich, Switzerland, which focuses on science and technology, took home the top prize for an innovative canoe that consists of a skeletal framework that was made using 3D-printed moulds.

The team members based their design, which they named SkelETHon, on research that allowed them to cast concrete in any shape using 3D-printed moulds.

“With 3D printing we have an almost unlimited geometrical freedom for making formworks, which was not available to concrete so far,” said the team’s Andrei Jipa. “Undercuts, microstructures, high-resolution details are now possible.”

Weighing just 114 kilogrammes, the four-metre-long boat comprises a stiff steel-fibre-reinforced concrete inner skeleton, which is covered by a two to three-millimetre-thick waterproof concrete skin. Using moulds made from recyclable plastic, the team shaped slender ‘bones’ – some of which measured just 15 millimetres in diameter – from steel-fibre-reinforced concrete to form the skeleton.

This marks the third year in a row that ETH Zurich has won the prize, and the boat is now on permanent display at the Institute of Technology in Architecture at the school.

The Annual Concrete Boat Race in South Africa

Locally, a similar event takes place. Open to university students and industry members, the Annual Concrete Boat Race was created to introduce students to the cement and concrete industry and facilitate networking between industry members and students in a fun atmosphere.

The first Concrete Boat Race took place in 1989 and it has since gone on to become a popular fixture for students and industry members alike. The race comprises four categories; these are Student, Industry, Ladies and the ‘Anything That Floats’ Open. Last year, the University of Johannesburg took home the first, second and third prizes in the Student Category.

This year’s event takes place on Saturday, 14 October 2017. For more information on the event and to register to enter, visit the website. 


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