With 23 boats participating in the world’s 1st e-regatta and those numbers bolstered by electric motor manufacturers at the Venice Boat Show, the city that maintained a maritime empire for 5 centuries is now leading the way to an electric green future.
Venice’s Arsenale, the shipyard complex which owned an entire forest in the 16th century to supply the wood for a 2,000 man enterprise that could turn out a ship every day, was home to the Salone Nautica Venezia from May 29 to June 5 and allocated special space for the electric exhibitors.
The electric boat and motor contingent made up about 1/5 of the total Salone exhibitors and on the evening of June 2nd a procession of e-boats – from refitted Venice classics to work boats to an inflatable solar boat to the latest challenger for the electric boat world speed record – sailed out from the Arsenale, then paraded along the Grand Canal, under the Rialto, out into the San Marco Basin and back ‘home’.
e-Regatta comprises 4 races over 2 days
The idea for the e-Regatta came from Kevin Desmond, author of ‘Electric Boats and Ships: A History” and founder of the VeniceAgenda2028, which is working to make all canal traffic in La Serenissima fossil-fuel-free by 2028.
For this first iteration, contests began the morning of June 3, with the competitive nature of the event tempered by a spirit of co-operation as all of these pioneering boat builders celebrated the opportunity to show off the benefits of e-propulsion in a city where many citizens are tired of the noise, exhaust and wake of fossil fuel boats.
June 3, Morning: Slalom
First up was the slalom event with the course set right in the Arsenale Dock and each of the 8 entries zigzagging through slalom buoys in individual timed ‘there-and-back runs’. The E‘dyn 1120 emerged victorious, followed by the Madonna della Madia II and the Bellmarine.
E’dyn is an abbreviation of Electric Dynamic Nautics, a brand by Podkriznik, a Slovenian company with thirty years expertise in electric propulsion technology. The 1120 is a sleek wooden speed boat developed in concert with the German firm Kaiserboote.
The boats placing second and third in the slalom both hail from the host nation. The Madonna is from the Monopoli district on the Adriatic coast of Italy and is a traditional wide beam gozzo boat made entirely of recycled wood and powered by a motor from AS Labruna. The Bellmarine is all aluminum and powered by Transfluid equipment.
June 2, Morning: e-Ballerina
Next up was an entirely new water sport – the e-Ballerina – patterned after gymnastics and figure skating competitions with boats ‘dancing’ to music and showing off the manouevrability of the craft and the talent of the captains. Each of the 8 boats performed to their chosen music which included tunes by The Beach Boys and Freddy Mercury as well as classics by Venice native son Vivaldi and an upbeat Italian tarantella. Points were awarded for technical difficulty, music and originality.
The top two results echoed the Slalom, with the e’dyn 1120 in first place followed by Madonna della Madia II .
A surprising third place was achieved by Anvera E Lab‘s 9.9 metre hull with 250kW motor specifically designed to achieve high straight line speeds, not to perform intricate slow speed manoeuvres. Congratulations to crew members Luca Ferrari and Maurizio Cheli for showing off the boat’s agility so well.
June 2 , Afternoon: Sprint
The ultralight carbon fibre Anvera performed as expected in the afternoon, taking first place in the 500 metre flat out sprint from the canal Santo Spirito in ‘downtown’ Venice out to San Clemente Island and back. Timing was done by the Italian Motorboat Federation with the e-Lab clocking a speed of 41 kmh (22 kts / 25 mph) and Serene, the entry from UK/Italian yard Vita Yachts, placing second at 33 kmh (17 kts / 20 mph).
Third place went to a name that has been celebrated for boat design and manufacturing since 1771: Ernesto Riva. The meticulously engineered electric boat that the 250 year old cantiere (shipyard) brought to the Venice e-Regatta was first shown at the Monaco Solar and Energy Boat Challenge in 2018 – coincidentally the same year that Vita attended and both companies outlined their visions for the future of boating during the TechTalk portion of the event. (This year’s MSEBC takes place July 6-10 at the Yacht Club de Monaco).
June 3, Afternoon: Autonomy/Endurance
Day Three of the e-Regatta was the time for “90 Minuti di Giudecca” – 90 Minutes of Giudecca – the autonomy trial named for and centred around the largest island of Venice. Seven boats set out to see who could achieve the most 2.5km laps in and hour and a half, with the familiar names finishing in the top positions: Anvera, Riva and E’Dyn.
Points were awarded in each of the four disciplines in the e-Regatta, and when all was tallied up the overall winner was E’dyn, taking home the ‘Coppa del Salone Nautica Venezia’ to its headquarters in Slovenia. Second and third prizes went to Envera e-Lab and Monopoli’s Madonna della Madia II
Two other awards were given out, one in the category of ‘Solar Boat’ won by the Electricat Big Six inflatable solar boat from Hovercraft (also of Slovenia), and one in the category of ‘Hybrid Boats’ won by the boat ‘Casanova‘ from Venice’s own San Pietro di Castello Motonautico Shipyard located close by the famous church of the same name and where shipbuilding has been in full swing since the 1800s.
The trophy and awards were presented by the Deputy Mayor of Venice, Andrea Tomaello, along with Fabrizio D’Oria, Operating Officer of the Venice transit authority Vela, one of the e-Regatta sponsors.
“In a period in which there is so much talk about sustainability and looking to the future, what we have seen in Venice these past few days can represent an example for Venice of something to export and demonstrate the possibilities to everyone.” said Tomaello. “The images of electric boats in Venice are unique” continued D’Oria, “and will project us to the next edition of the Boat Show, which will be held from 28 May to 5 June 2022”.
Electric future both in and beside the water
While the e-Regatta provided plenty of electric opportunities on the water, there were also significant demonstrations at the Boat Show main area as well as the conference and seminars of Towards Environmental Transformation which also took place at the Arsenale.
The sister company of Vita Yachts – Aqua Power – had their 150kWh electric boat supercharger on display with both the public and other boat show exhibitors showing keen interest in the network of chargers they are setting up along the Mediterranean coastline.
Within the Venice area itself, the e-concept corporation outlined its growth plans for charging stations that will be placed on the canals to service both recreational boats and the work boats of Vela and other city services. Among the boats in the opening procession were an electric cargo barge, electric refuse boat and industrial transport vessel with onboard crane.
Venice, of course, is one of the most romantic cities on the planet, due in no small part to its unique and historic canals and the boats that ply its waters. But there has been much discussion lately about the problems that come with hosting millions of tourists every year and with the vessels required to service its marine environment.
With the world’s 1st e-Regatta being hosted in the city and the strong electric boat presence at the 202 Salone Nautica, it appears there may be an opportunity for Venice to jump start change in the traffic of its canals, reduce pollution and help lead the way to an electric boating future in ‘La Serenissima’ and beyond.