Power & Motor Yacht

In Monaco, internatio­nal teams compete in a one-of-a-kind race featuring solar-powered and alternate-energy vessels.

Solar technology still takes top billing at this racing event, but alternativ­e energy sources are now in the mix.

- —Simon Murray

They descend on Monaco from all over, including Italy, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Holland and France. While others come to this famed principali­ty on the Mediterran­ean coastline primarily for its beaches and upscale casinos, these internatio­nal visitors have a loftier goal: to be the fastest team at the annual Solar & Energy Boat Challenge, now in its fifth year. Organized in collaborat­ion with the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the Hydros Foundation and the Internatio­nal Powerboati­ng Federation, the event is the only one of its kind.

For the 2018 challenge that takes place this month, Yacht Club de Monaco (YCM), the event organizer, expanded its entry requiremen­ts to allow clean energy sources of all kinds, in an effort to promote and optimize eco-friendly marine propulsion systems. Over three days, each team must complete four standard tests: a fleet-wide endurance race, speed contest, slalom and one-on-one duels. All races take place in the superyacht-filled Port Hercules, which provides quite the backdrop for the competitio­n, with spectators lining quays and harbor walls.

Besides a 26-foot-long, hand-built boat, each team also brings a unique backstory to Monaco. For the past four years, Gerard van der Schaar’s Clafis Victron Energy Solar Boat Team has claimed first place in the open class. Van der Schaar, who is from the Netherland­s, and his longtime friend and partner Mark Scholten have spent over 10 years building boats and competing in solar challenges across Europe.

In those first races, they quickly found that batteries were their boats’ Achilles’ heel. Leveraging shared background­s in

electrical engineerin­g, they developed a one-of-akind, proprietar­y lithium-ion battery that could power their boat across the finish line. Building off that success, they founded MG Energy Systems, which now supplies lithium-ion batteries to passenger ferries, superyacht builders and even other competitor­s in Monaco.

As a rule, van der Schaar says his company doesn’t spend money on advertisin­g. “If you show with the boat that it’s possible, that’s the best advertisem­ent you could ever have.”

In 2008, the first iteration of van der Schaar’s boat had a top speed of 9.5 knots. Last year his vessel set a world speed record of just under 26 knots. Yet even though the team is buoyed by that achievemen­t, they are quickly becoming an outlier. Their competitor­s are getting younger and younger as more teams of engineerin­g university students and entreprene­urs enter the fold.

One such team is Plastic Odyssey, founded by 26-year-old Simon Bernard of Brittany, France. Bernard got the idea for a plastic-waste-powered vessel from his travels with the French Merchant Marine, during which he saw “an ocean of garbage.” Making its debut in Monaco this year is Plastic Odyssey’s prototype that can harvest plastic pollutants, safely transformi­ng them into Last year, 20 universiti­es took part in the Solar & Energy Boat Challenge, with over 150 young engineers representi­ng countries from all over the world. According to the race’s founder, Marco Casiraghi, similar races could be organized in London, Venice or Miami in 2019, which would open the door for more teams to enter the competitio­n. a fuel source that will power the boat’s engines.

The team has ambitious plans. In 2020, Plastic Odyssey hopes to undertake a round-the-world expedition on an 82-foot vessel, relying solely on plastic waste as propulsion. “We want to prove that we can make the full trip,” says Bernard, “to solve the global issue of plastic pollution.”

When asked about YCM opening up the playing field to include more teams with different background­s and energy sources, van der Schaar seems delighted. “I think it’s a good developmen­t. This way, more universiti­es and young people are involved.”

Marco Casiraghi, an engineer and the founder of the Solar & Energy Boat Challenge, agrees. “These technologi­es exist today, but they are just not being applied.”

For that reason, an offshore class for electricpo­wered boats was added to the Challenge last year. Built to YCM offshore class specificat­ions, the boats compete on a 25-nautical-mile course from Monaco to Ventimigli­a, Italy. “With this route, the aim is to highlight the enormous potential of our young engineers, whose efforts are supported by the shipyards,” said Casiraghi. “We have a common goal, which is to work together to build the leisure boats of tomorrow.”

 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States