The UK will host the first European International Submarine Races (eISR) beginning on 25 June 2012 at Gosport, Hampshire, UK, in a bid to test the engineering expertise and stamina of enterprising university students from three continents.

Sponsored by the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST), the Society for Underwater Technology, and QinetiQ, eISR will take place in QinetiQ’s Ocean Basin, a freshwater tank in Europe. The event, to be held for a week, will feature self-designed submarines by university teams from Canada, France, Oman, the UK and the US including Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, Ecole de Technologie Superieure, Sultan Qaboos University, the University of Bath, the University of Michigan and A&M University respectively.

Held for the first time outside the US, the competition aims to develop real, practical engineering skills, encourage innovation, especially in propulsion systems, and teamwork as well as showcase marine engineering as an exciting potential career.

Race director Dr William Megill said: "There are very real applications for the science and technology employed in these craft as we seek to find ever more effective ways of exploring the waters of the world using autonomous underwater vehicles."

The 3-4m-long flooded submarines will be raced, piloted and pedalled by one or two scuba divers fully enclosed within the hull of the machines at up to speeds of 7 knots. Propulsion power will be provided by the diver without the use of external energy storage devices such as flywheels or batteries.

The first day will begin with final readying, ballasting, dry judging and diver checkouts, while the proper race will start on the second day. The final day will involve the best boats racing head-to-head. The vessels can be constantly modified by the teams to improve their performance. Submarine racing began in the Atlantic Ocean in the late 1980s and recent races have featured as many as 28 teams fielding 36 submarines.