Earth Notes: Eco Puzzler: Jules Verne Trophy

Updated 2024-04-26.
For those on their way to mastering engineering... Design a vessel, and all associated aspects, to lift the Jules Verne Trophy! #ecoEngineering #transport
From a series of eco puzzles set for real MEng students by "The Prof". This one is to design a vessel, and all the associated aspects, to lift the [Jules Verne] trophy.

Text lightly edited from real project work description for MEng students.

Many thanks to "The Prof" for so generously making this material available!

Design to lift the Jules Verne Trophy

By: ""


This trophy is awarded to the sailing vessel which circumnavigates the world in the shortest time. The rules are very simple, namely:

  • entrants have to register and pay the entry fee to the organizing committee before setting off
  • the vessel can be any shape or size and can have any number of crew members
  • the vessel can only be propelled by the natural actions of the wind and the crew
  • the start and finish line is a line from Creac'h Lighthouse on Ushant in NW France to the Lizard Lighthouse in Cornwall
  • the course is from the start line to the Cape of Good Hope, leaving it to port, on to Cape Leeuwin, leaving that to port, on to Cape Horn, leaving that to port, and back to the start/finish line to cross the line in the opposite direction from the way started
  • the passage must be non-stop and the vessel must not receive any physical outside assistance
  • the entrant must observe safety rules

Hence the course starts and finishes in the North Atlantic with its depressions, goes through the doldrums twice and skirts Antarctica with its very strong winds. The current holder [as of 2011] is Groupama 3 which did it in 48 days, 7 hours, 44 minutes and 52 seconds. This equates to an average speed of just under 19 knots (9 m/s) which, in turn, equates to an average Froude Number of 0.5. The maximum speed was probably twice the average.

The project

The project is to design a vessel, and all the associated aspects, to lift the trophy. The deliverable in the project will be a prospectus to attract sponsors, and this prospectus must be as robust and complete as possible. It will cover at least:

  • the design of the vessel (hydrodynamic, aerodynamic and structural)
  • the route
  • the crew size
  • qualification and selection of the crew
  • an analysis showing how the vessel can beat the current record. This could be in the form of demonstrating a 97% probability of bettering 48 days and a 90% probability of doing 40 days
  • how to feed and hydrate the crew
  • power, navigation and communication systems
  • repair of vessel and equipment
  • emergency, rescue and crew health systems
  • race management systems to optimize performance according to weather forecasts, sea states and the performance characteristics of the vessel
  • optimum time to start
  • a plan for risk mitigation, including by insurance and the possible consequential compliance with the requirements of a marine certifying society
  • cost budget

Reading list

(Level: Masters; group work, learning activity.)


(Count: 4)