WINCHESTER, Calif. -

Student teams from 39 high schools across Southern California are getting ready for the nation's largest solar-powered boat competition next weekend near Winchester, organizers said today.

The Metropolitan Water District is sponsoring the 11th annual Solar Cup starting next Friday at its Lake Skinner, just north of Temecula in Riverside County.

High school teams are working on identical 16-foot-long hulls and kits with solar panels, batteries, electrical systems, drive trains, propellers and rudders supplied by the MWD, They use their engineering and math skills to maximize their boats' endurance, speed and mechanical and electrical efficiencies.

"Solar Cup brings together interdisciplinary student teams that strive to reach specific milestones throughout the school year,'' said Solar Cup coordinator Julie Miller, a state-certified teacher in the MWD's education programs. "Students are challenged by activities that complement curriculum in science, technology, engineering and math as well as the environmental sciences and visual arts programs.

The competition begins next Friday with qualifying events judged by MWD and a technical advisory team from Harvey Mudd and Occidental colleges. Saturday will feature single-seat, solar-powered 16-foot boats outfitted with solar-collection panels in endurance races around a 1.6-kilometer course.

Sunday will be highlighted by 200-meter sprint races in which the solar panels are removed and the boats are powered by solar energy stored in batteries. Trophies will be awarded in veteran and rookie divisions for teams with the highest points, as well as to teams honored for "Hottest-Looking Boat,'' teamwork and sportsmanship.

Races are easily visible from the shore at the event, which is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4p.m. with free admission and parking. Lake Skinner is at 37701 Warren Road in southwest Riverside County.