The 8th edition of the Monaco Energy Boat Challenge, running from July 6-10, is set to be the biggest and best yet, with 35 teams from 20 countries entering electric, solar and hydrogen boats that compete in 3 categories.
The Yacht Club de Monaco (YCM) debuted the event in 2014 with a small field of solar powered boats and has increased the categories and races every year. The original events were made up almost entirely of university and college students but there is now a wide breadth of student, alumni, research institute and commercial teams.
Education is still central and essential to the proceedings though. The YCM prides itself on being a leader in all things marine and has built a strong tradition of innovation and one of its goals is “supporting research and development in yachting, by stimulating creativity and providing a networking and information exchange platform for the engineers of tomorrow and professionals working in clean energy propulsion”
The on-water races are accompanied by seminars, lectures and presentations – Tech Talks – where teams provide open source information so that everyone can benefit from the collective experiences of putting together the clean marine propulsion of the future. For this year, the theme regarding new energy is “The days of just raising awareness are over – time now for action!”
Three classes in Monaco Energy Boat Challenge
The races take place in three classes: Solar Class, Energy Class and Open Sea Class.
This is where it all started in 2014. University teams had been building solar boats and competing in races since 1994 in the USA’s ‘Solar Splash‘ and since 2004 in the Netherlands. In 2014 the Yacht Club de Monaco opened a spectacular new clubhouse and the Solar 1 Monte Carlo Cup was an exciting, high profile way to demonstrate its commitment to leading change in the yachting world for the 21st century.
That first event had solar boats in three classes designated by the Solar Sport One organization: A Class and Open Class, in which teams designed and built their own boats, and V20 Class, in which competitors raced in a standardized boat from Dutch yacht design studio Vripack.
Eight years on, these three classes are all bundled up in one Solar Class, which has 11 teams participating and includes an entry from one of the original 2014 competitors – the HAN University Solar Boat – as well as the first ever entry from Africa, coming from the Kwa-Zulu Natal Centre at the Durban University of Technology.
The Energy Class was introduced by the YCM in 2018. Each team is supplied with the same hull design and the challenge for students, working with industry partners, is to design the most powerful and durable propulsion system using a clean energy source of their choice, from a given quantity of energy. Many avenues have been pursued since 2018, from fuel cells to heat recovery to artificial intelligence.
For 2021 this is the largest class, with 15 teams competing. They include teams made up of only students, teams of students collaborating with commercial ventures, and teams entered by commercial venture on their own who are exploring new types of propulsions.
What a range of boats there are within that single hull design. A team from the Marine Intelligent Equipment Laboratory of Hainan University in China is combining the energy research with their ongoing autonomous navigation work and teams from Dubai, Italy and France are entering hydrogen or fuel cell and battery hybrid boats. They will be competing against – and comparing technical notes with – teams from Greece, Italy, Indonesia and Peru.
Open Sea Class
Formerly called the Offshore Class, Open Sea is mainly made up of commercial competitors who have already developed their technology. Among the 5 entries are Monaco-based Lanéva Boats, Sweden’s Candela and its hydrofoiling technology, and Vita, of Italy and the UK, which first came to the Monaco Challenge in 2018. In addition to these electric boats, there is excitement about two hydrogen fuel cell boats.
The HyNova 40 is the first pleasure boat to use the REXH2 (Range Extender Hydrogen) system that was developed by research vessel Energy Observer, who participated in the conferences and Tech Talks last year. The system is built by EO’s commercial arm, EODev, and has been installed to service the hotel load on a Fountaine Pajot sailing catamaran, but this is the first time it is being used to power a boat’s propulsion.
The other hydrogen boat (the hydrofoiler shown in the photo) comes from Technical University Delft, who have been perennial entrants in the Monaco Energy Boat Challenge since 2014 and are always pushing the boundaries of clean energy. The team of college students is competing in the Open Sea Class “to show the maritime offshore industry and the world what is possible with hydrogen energy.”
There are manoeuvrability and speed challenges in each of the classes (much as there were at the world’s 1st e-Regatta in Venice in June) and the Open Sea boats will race in the high profile event of the week, a 16 nautical mile coastal run from Monaco to the Italian port of Ventimiglia.
Monaco Energy Boat Challenge Schedule
The full day-by-day schedule, including the Tech Talks and conference, can be found on the Monaco Energy Boat Challenge website, below is a summary of some of the race times.
Tuesday July 6 and Wednesday, July 7
Thursday, July 8
Sea Trials for all classes.
Qualifying laps for Energy and Solar Classes
Manoeuvrability Challenge for Open Sea.
Friday, July 9
Start of Fleet Race, Solar Class
Lap Race (16nM), Energy Class
Coastal Race to Ventimiglia, Open Sea Class
3:00 – Speed Record Attempts
Saturday, July 10Slalom and Championships Races, Solar and Energy Classes
Endurance Race: Open Sea Class
Prize Giving and Closing Dinner