If you ask University of Auckland Undergraduate students Nicholas Jeffares (Nick) and Logan McDonald the answer is most definitely ‘yes’ after they successfully designed, built and raced their concrete canoe against rivals Canterbury University at the national Concrete Conference held in Hamilton in October.
Whilst other countries have held annual concrete canoe competitions for a number of years, it’s the first year such a challenge has been undertaken in New Zealand and it forms part of the Honours requirement for Nick and Logan’s engineering degrees.
Although not quite in the same league as the famous Oxford and Cambridge rowing event held on the Thames every year, Nick says the project certainly fed the competitive spirit between the universities and was also an opportunity to have some fun. “Each team was made up of four people. Two worked on the materials to be used while the other two members worked on the geometry and how the canoe would move through the water,” he says.
Tasked with sourcing the materials Logan and Nick contacted the Firth technical team for assistance. “Firth gave us a lot of help which was invaluable. They supplied us with the materials and basically the know how to make a concrete mix that would float.”
“We helped Nick and the guys with a lightweight mix including fibres which are added to keep the weight down and aid buoyancy,” says Robert McKinnon, Materials Manager (Northern) for Firth “Polystyrene inserts were also cast into the bow and stern for the same reason. Fibres added to the mix helped with reinforcement and to allow a degree of flexibility in the craft so it wouldn't crack or break up in the water.“
In October, at the annual Concrete Conference held in Hamilton, both universities came together to find out which team would prevail, racing their canoes on Lake Hamilton in front of their professors and other conference attendees. Unable to undertake any practice runs due to the time required for the concrete to cure, race day was the first time Nick and Logan had put the boat in the water.
“It was no surprise that Canterbury won the first race. We did make a comeback in the second race as we started to get the hang of it so we won that one and then fittingly we drew the third!” says Nick. The teams were also judged on the aesthetics of their canoes with Auckland University being awarded the overall win.
“My team of Logan McDonald, Ben Kovich, James McArthur and myself would like to thank Firth and all our sponsors for supporting us through to the end of the project. We definitely learned a lot and had a lot of fun in the process.”