One of the premier boats competing in one of the world’s great sailing races – the Vendée Globe – has just been outfitted with solar panels in advance of receiving an electric propulsion system.
The Vendée Globe is considered by many to be the pinnacle of yacht races: a non-stop, around the world, solo competition in which sailors face some of the most gruelling conditions any ocean can throw at them. All of this is done in an IMOCA 60 – an open sailboat only 60 feet long.
The racers begin at Les Sables-d’Olonne in France, then travel down the Atlantic to the southern tip of Africa, turn eastward at Cape of Good Hope, over to Australia, then to South America’s Cape Horn and running back up to France. The current record is two and a half months: 74 days 3 hours 35 minutes and 46 seconds.
The competition was founded in 1989 by fabled yachtsman Philippe Jeantot who, among many accomplishments, took part in the inaugural 1984 Transat Quebec-to-France race in competition against the boat which is now the research ship Energy Observer – which is trying to become the first vessel to circumnavigate the world using hydrogen harvested from the sea.
Back to the Vendée Globe. It takes place every four years and the next race is scheduled to begin November 8, 2020. One of the skippers everyone will be watching is Boris Herrmann, the first German born racer to ever compete.
Goal is to win without leaving a trace of pollution
His boat is the Malizia II. Team Malizia was founded in 2016 by Herrmann and racing teammate Pierre Casirgahi, Vice-President of the Yacht Club de Monaco, which recently won the UIM 2018 Environment Award for its Monaco Solar and Energy Boat Challenge regatta.
Fittingly, one of the goals of Team Malizia is not just to win the race, but to “Sail around the planet without leaving a trace of pollution”
Sails, of course, don’t leave any trace of pollution, but auxiliary power is also needed, and the Malizia II currently has a 377kg combustion engine system.
It was announced in October that the team would be working with BMW and Torqeedo to install an electric motor and battery system. Electricity is also needed for things like lights, winches, and heating – which you can imagine might come in handy now and then!
All power to come from solar and hydrogenerators
The design and installation of panels that can provide energy for a boat travelling 24,000 nautical miles and traversing 100˚ of latitude is being done by Solbian, whose slogan, appropriately enough is: “We create solar energy under any conditions.”
Their panels will be put to the task here!
In a conversation with sailing writer Yannick Kethers, Michael Körner of Solbian outlined some of the challenges.
“We had to take a lot of factors into account given the difficult circumstances found on board. To begin with, the solar panels will be exposed to extreme weather conditions and salt water over a long period of time. We had to find suitable spaces for the panels. We had to consider shadowing of the panels, which is quite significant due to the large rig and sails.”
The interview, which can be found on the Malizia website is fascinating as it goes through some of the considerations and intricacies like concealing the wiring and making the solar panel surface non-skid.
Team Members have adopted #MyOceanChallenge
One last thing, Team Malizia and each member of the team has adopted an Ocean Challenge about protecting the seas: Our mission is to promote ocean science, protection and education around the world whilst inspiring the next generation with sailing adventures.
They are also encouraging others to create their own ocean challenge and post it on social media with the hashtag #myoceanchallenge. For educators and students there is a downloadable ‘My Ocean Challenge’ kit to spur ideas. You can read the Yannick Kethers interview, join the #myoceanchallenge and read all about Malizia II on the Boris Herrmann Racing website.
Photos: Boris Herrmann Racing