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Maritimo 2023 S600 LEADERBOARD

Solar & Energy Boat Challenge: New propulsion systems have a future

by Isabelle Andrieux 11 Jul 2018 22:13 PDT 12-14 July 2018
Solar & Energy Boat Challenge 2018 ©

In a few days the Solar & Energy Boat Challenge dedicated to the latest innovations in propulsion takes to the water. Since its launch in 2014 by the Yacht Club de Monaco, this solar-powered boat event continues to develop and this year for the first time is open to all clean energy sources.

Supported by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, Hydros Foundation and International Powerboating Federation (UIM), this competition is unique in the world, giving young engineers an opportunity to reinvent boating to meet future energy and environmental imperatives. Already, 30 teams have confirmed their attendance, an increase of 25% over last year.

"It is part of the Principality's commitment to the environment led by our President HSH Prince Albert II. If we want to position Monaco as Capital of Yachting, we need to play a part in these technologies," says YCM General Secretary, Bernard d'Alessandri.

Bertrand Piccard, the man behind Solar Impulse, the first fuel-less zero-emissions plane with limitless autonomy in which he flew round the world, agreed to sponsor this fifth edition. "I'm delighted to see what can be achieved with clean energy sources. These boats can compete in races full of suspense and all without any noise or pollution. It really is something that needs to be encouraged."

With speeds up to 20 knots, solar boats in the Solar Energy class take centre stage for a fleet race and timed one-on-one slalom races in Monaco for three days. Dutchman Gerhard van der Schaar on Clafis Victron Energy Solar Boat Team has in the past dominated these events and returns to Monaco to defend his title.

Propulsion systems: each to their own solution

For the first time, the YCM is launching a brand new concept with the Energy Class. Engineering students and industrialists have all been given a one-design catamaran hull (all identical). Their mission has been to build a cockpit and design the most powerful and durable propulsion system from a given amount of energy. Be it Bio Fuel, battery, hydrogen, compressed air, LNG or anything else, the choice is wide, but it must be a clean source.

"The purpose of this event is to bring new solutions and compare them. You need to know that the internal combustion engine in terms of pure propulsion gets only 30% out of the energy contained in 1 litre of fuel, compared to a fuel cell that attains about 80%. So why aren't we seeing more fuel cells and new more efficient systems than the combustion engine?" asks Jérémie Lagarrigue, General Manager of Hydros Efficiency and organiser of the Hydrocontest in Saint-Tropez, first student competition dedicated to maritime energy (working on hulls).

Find new more sustainable solutions and apply them to boats is the challenge that is inspiring a new generation like Simon Bernard, 27, co-founder of Plastic Odyssey, a 25m catamaran powered by plastic waste. It is a concept that became obvious faced with the urgency of the situation, one where "every minute plastic waste the equivalent of the weight of three elephants is dumped into the oceans. Plastic Odyssey is a round the world expedition on a laboratory boat, totally autonomous thanks to plastic, the waste we collect at each port of call being recycled on board. The goal of this project is not to clean-up the oceans, already widely polluted by plastic. Indeed, once it is in the sea, it's too late: only 1% of plastic waste floats to the surface. The remaining 99% breaks-down into micro-particles and carpets the seabed. The goal is to demonstrate that it is too valuable to end up in the ocean." Plastic Odyssey will also be here in Monaco for the Solar & Energy Boat Challenge in the Energy Class category.

Offshore Race heads to Italy

Another edition, another destination for the offshore race, which this year heads to Ventimiglia in Italy. Boats must comply with YCM Offshore Class rules, which means being able to take three people and comply with technical specifications defined with the UIM. Five teams are all set to do this 16 nautical mile race (there and back).

"The aim is to highlight the enormous potential of our young engineers supported by the shipyards. We have a common goal, which is to work together to build the leisure boats of tomorrow," explains Marco Casiraghi, himself an engineer and the man behind the project. The two harbours are set to be interconnected soon. Meanwhile this race serves as a big test for boats, close to commercialization, with an eco-responsible propulsion on the sea.

World's largest civilian drone

A showcase for new technology after Planet Solar in 2014, the 2018 Solar & Energy Boat Challenge hosts the oceanic drone Sphyrna, the largest civilian surface drone in the world (17m), with an electric motor powered by solar, wind and tidal energy. It is here on a mission this summer to help assess noise disturbance on cetaceans in the Pelagos Sanctuary, supervised by Professor Hervé Glotin from Toulon University and François Sarano, former scientific advisor to Captain Cousteau and member of the YCM's Explorers Club.

Open Source: sharing and exchanging ideas to build the future for yachting

It is just over a century since the first powerboat meetings were held in Monaco, attracting the world's industrialists to see the latest innovations in internal combustion engine technology. Today, the Principality continues a long tradition as a laboratory for progress, focused today on clean energy sources. For the 5th edition, all participants are invited to exchange ideas at daily Tech Talks (see programme) in the format of round tables and present their ideas on Open Source. A jury of specialists, including members of SMEG (Société Monégasque de l'Electricité et du Gaz) like Anthony Dupont, responsible for controlling energy use, and Sales Director Pierfranck Pelacchi, will present a special innovation prize at the closing ceremony on 14th July.

After its success last year, UIM (International Powerboating Federation) is to hold its international workshop again, focused on the environment and watersports. Speakers include representatives from authorities and international sports federations who will discuss challenges facing the application of sustainable energy sources for motorboats.

The Solar & Energy Boat Challenge Village is soon to open its doors, with a host of activities going on in the paddocks where the public are welcome to get as close to the action as it is possible to be.

Provisional programme:

Thursday 12th to Saturday 14th July from 8.30am – 8.00pm: Solar & Energy Boat Challenge Paddocks open (free entry)

Thursday 12th July:

9.00am: Pilots briefing
10.00am: Start of trial – Race 1
3.30pm: Start of trial – Race 2
5.00pm: Tech Talks
7.00pm: Welcome Cocktail (by invitation)

Friday 13th July:

9.00am: Pilots briefing
10.00am: Start of Monaco-Ventimiglia-Monaco Endurance Race (Energy Class)
10.00am: Start of Fleet Race
2.45pm: Group Picture
3.00pm: Parade lap
3.30pm: Speed record
5.00pm: Tech Talks

Saturday 14th July:

9.00am: Pilots briefing
10.00am: Start of One-on-One Slalom qualifiers (Energy & Solar Classes)
10.00am: Start of Monaco-Ventimiglia-Monaco Endurance Race (Offshore Class)
2.00pm: Start of One-on-One Slalom finals (Energy Class)
3.00pm: Start of One-on-One Slalom finals (Solar Class)
4.00-6.00pm: UIM Workshop
8.00pm: Closing dinner

For more information and registrations visit

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