The Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge, which emerged in 2014 as a varsity team competition, is becoming more and more exciting for shipyards.
“The future of Monaco is at sea,” said Prince Rainier III at the 1953 inauguration of the Monaco Yacht Club. “The sea is the focus of the future of the planet,” his son Albert II continued in 2019 at the opening of the Solar & Energy Boat Challenge, a competition in which teams from 14 countries raced boats using only clean energy sources.
Curves of history
The tradition of holding such competitions originated in Monaco back in 1904, when boat manufacturers came to the principality. At that time, ICE boats were still innovative, although the technology already existed. (The world’s first motor boat was built in 1886 at Lürssen by order of Gottlieb Daimler with an engine of his design).
History repeats itself. “Many technologies exist but are not applied. Brands copy each other, not realizing that they can save energy without losing comfort, ”says Marco Casiraghi, who proposed the Solar Challenge concept. – In fact, the comfort is getting even more: electric boats operate without vibration, sound, exhaust and do not harm nature. Our goal is to inform people that such technologies exist and can be implemented. And not only in yachting. “
The tradition of holding such competitions dates back to 1904
The concept of the competition is reminiscent of the Formula E car. Some athletes say that they were largely inspired by the design and engineering of racing cars. All presented projects are divided into three classes: Solar, Energy and Offshore. Each has its own basic parameters and racing program. The teams’ budget is from 10 to 500 thousand euros, and one of the cheapest this year was the project of the most eminent player – the Nobiskrug team.
In this most massive class, teams have been competing since the first championship. Boats use only the energy of the sun. Standardization concerns the size, area and number of solar panels, battery capacity, minimum speed and pilot weight. Boats may or may not have hydrofoils. Given the constraints, maximum speed and range are the main factors for victory.
The class is actively developing: for the first time in the history of the challenge, the “solar” fleet held a three-hour non-stop race at a distance of almost 20 miles. The best overall results were shown by the New Nexus and Sunflare teams (both from the Netherlands), with Sunflare being the fastest (17 knots) in its class and the third fastest among all competitors. The Dutch have an advantage here in terms of the number of teams: 11 out of 19.
It is just gaining momentum and allows the use of any renewable energy sources and their combinations. The task is to develop the most powerful and durable engine for powering a monotype catamaran 8 m long and 6 m wide. The German shipyard Nobiskrug, a German shipyard, presented its project and championship debutant in this class. Last year she announced plans to build a hydrogen fuel cell electric yacht.
The appearance of Nobiskrug in the championship gave rise to rumors that, perhaps, the shipyard will show a prototype of that very sensational project. But no! The catamaran Nobiskrug was equipped with an outboard electric motor powered by a battery and solar panels. The total cost of the project did not exceed 20 thousand euros, but a practical solution brought Nobiskrug to 3rd place in the class. The French Wave ESTACA won it.
The hydrogen engine, although it became one of the most popular in the Energy class, did not bring high places to the participants. The local SBM Offshore E-Racing was honored with a special innovation award, but couldn’t even make it to the podium.
“Trying to be innovative, we lost speed,” said team leader Federico Toscano. Nevertheless, the jury appreciated the team’s ideas for the safe use of hydrogen fuel cells, as well as the original combination of energy sources: fuel cells and a thermoelectric generator based on Peltier elements, which receives energy from the heat dissipated by the fuel cells.
Here are solutions that are practically ready for the market. Boats up to 12 m in length and RCD “C” category (capable of being at sea with winds up to 6 points and waves up to 2 m) are allowed here. The weight of the crew must be at least 240 kg, the mass of the boat is not limited. Participants compete, including at distances of 16 and 32 miles.
The long race of the championship was won by the TU Delft Solar Boat Team with an average speed of around 8 knots. This year, they brought a modular trimaran with solar panels with an area of 28 sq. m. It was designed as purely racing, but some elements are already being used in the real sector, for example, in the development of the design of taxi bots for the Rotter Dame. The trimaran project included hydrofoils, but three weeks before the championship, during tests, the wings went to the bottom of Lake IJsselmeer. Having relied not on speed, but on range, the team defeated rivals even without wings.
Through its original format, the Solar & Energy Boat Challenge strengthens its reputation by bringing in more teams every year
The Italians from Anvera ELab, on the other hand, more concerned with dynamics, won the speed race, accelerating their “black arrow” to 40 knots and almost doubling the previous record. True, their budget for this championship was a record one: about 500 thousand euros.
“Seeing the races in Monaco in the past, we got the idea to make our own project,” says team leader Luca Ferrari. He himself was among the top riders of the Class 1 World Powerboat Championship in the 1990s, and since the early 2000s he has been building boats and tenders for superyachts.
Teaming up with the engineering company TecnoElettra (also Italy), the Anvera team built a racing prototype within a year, which took on a deep V carbon body and quite classic outlines. Inside-three – a 200 kW electric motor, two batteries of 42 kW ∙ h, outside – a semi-submerged propeller. With a length of almost 10 m, the Anvera boat turned out to be light – 1.5 tons, of which only 350 kg are per hull.
The device was launched two weeks before the championship, without having time to really test, but the speed achieved during the races of the creators of the project, it seems, was not particularly surprising.
“We are ready to improve the record in the coming weeks,” said Luca Ferrari after the races, and people with such experience want to take their word for it.
Not just racing
The Solar & Energy Boat Challenge format also includes daily mini-conferences, where teams can talk about their project and discuss it with colleagues.
In the exhibition area of the championship camp, new technologies for yachting and not only were demonstrated: solar grills and ovens, electric bicycles, battery optimization technologies, propellers alternative to propellers, etc.
Torqeedo presented a fleet of its electrical tenders as media bots, thus highlighting the absolutely “clean” status of the event. And the world famous yacht designer Espen Oino personally presented a new project of an electric referees catamaran, which the Monaco Yacht Club ordered for their regattas.
Thanks to the original format, the reputation of the Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge varsity championship is growing, attracting new participants every year. Perhaps someday we will see a crew from Russia here.