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Alternative energies are on the rise – on the road and in sports on four and two wheels, and now also on the water. Electric power units, solar energy, hydrogen, everything is better than fossil fuels, which are not only limited in their resources but also more or less pollute the environment. While new forms of mobility on the road are already far enough advanced that there are motor races  (Formula E since 2015, MotoE since 2019), the technological progress on the water is not quite there yet. So far, there are basically only prototypes of future boats. Last weekend, these types of prototypes could be seen on the Côte d’Azur, where Prince Albert of Monaco was invited to the “Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge“.

The aim of the event, which was organized by the International Powerboating Federation (UIM) and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, was to present “solutions for sustainable yachting” and put them into practice. The sixth edition of the unique international competition with 34 teams from 14 nations, offered an outlook on the future wherein researchers, academics, engineering students, and professionals working in the yachting and energy sectors presented their ideas to the public. “Training and educating our young people, their development, creativity, awareness, and involvement are the guarantors for a better future,” Prince Albert said. “Let us give them a chance, give them all the tools they need to succeed and above all put our trust in them.”

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Prototypes in three classes

The participants competed in three classes for victories and standings: Energy class, solar class, and offshore class. With 19 participants, the solar class – divided into two main categories, A-Class, and Open Class – featured the largest field. In the end, the Netherlands was the number one in both classes. In the open class, Team New Nexus won with a lead of 287 points over the runner-up. In the A-class, Team Sunflare took 1st place.

Students from the TU Delft Solar Boat Team represented The Netherlands in the Offshore Class and battled the Vita Yachts Team from Scotland for victory. In the end, the spoils were ‘divided up fairly’. While the Dutch team won the lengthy 32 nautical mile race without recharging, the Scots won the 16 nm long distance race using on-shore charging during the middle of the race. However, team Netherlands did not focus on the speed but rather on the range.

Seven participants competed against each other in the Energy Class, which was only launched last year. The aim was to find out who had designed the most powerful and durable propulsion system for a standard catamaran hull supplied by the Yacht Club de Monaco (YCM). The victory went to the French Wave ESTACA team, who dominated all contests in the class.

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No clear favorite

In total, more than 400 participants, exhibitors, speakers, and an estimated thousand visitors exchanged information on innovations in the field of boats during the four day event. “The Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge is doing its bit to think about the future of yachting,” said YCM Secretary General Bernard d’Alessandri. ” With this event, and as part of the project to make Monaco a yachting capital, the Principality is providing a conjunction for experiments from the industry, engineers, boatyards, students, and owners in their bid to meet the energy and environmental challenges facing the nautical sector.”

In the end, it became clear that there was no clear favorite concept for future power units in the nautical sector. On the one hand, hydrogen seems to be an effective alternative to traditional systems; while on the other, solar energy and hybrid solutions have also proven their worth. One example is the Dutch group SBM Offshore, whose largest location is in Monaco and employs around 900 people. The company presented its thermoelectric project with hydrogen as an energy source. The heat generated by the fuel cell is utilized in such an optimal way which supplies the battery, that is approaching a record 60% level of efficiency. The prototype was awarded the Credit Suisse Innovation Prize.

More than a dozen teams have already registered for the 2020 event, including one from the Visun Royal Yacht Club in China. The German boatyard Nobiskrug has also promised to return next year and has already found potential new employees. The same applies to the ship engine manufacturer Torqueedo, who presented a fleet of electric tenders. In addition, a total of around 20 young people may have found employment at this event thanks to the “Job Dating” initiative of the Yacht Club de Monaco.

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Tech Talks

The event concluded with Tech Talks where the teams had the opportunity to present their project – and inspire others. Like the start-up FinX with its electric biomimetic membrane based on the way fish use their fins to swim. It was designed to replace boat propellers. Professor Paolo Schinto from the Politecnico di Milano university presented his project, which he is working on together with his team – the recycling of lithium-ion batteries.

The Yacht Club de Monaco took the opportunity to present its future Zero Emissions Committee boat for regattas and all kinds of events organized by the Club throughout the year. For example, naval builder Espen Oeino has designed a 100% eco-friendly catamaran. Thanks to the technical know-how of Dario Calzavara (Terra Modena), who contributed to the design of the Lanéva prototype at the Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge, the boat will be so quiet and have no CO2 emissions, that it will be used for whale watching off the coast of the Principality.

Winners of the 6th edition of the Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge:

Energy Class: Wave ESTACA (France)
Offshore Class, Long Race: TU Delft Solar Boat Team (Netherlands)
Offshore Class, Endurance Race: VITA Yachts (Scotland)
Solar Open Class: New Nexus (Netherlands)
Solar A-Class: Sunflare (Netherlands)
Speed Record: Anvera Elab (Italy) 74.49 km/hr, beating the previous record set in 2016 of 49.10 km/hrInnovation Prize: SBM Offshore (Monaco) Solar Boat Twente (Netherlands) HydroVinci (France)
Innovation Prize: SBM Offshore (Monaco)
Best Tech Talk Prize: Solar Boat Twente (Netherlands)