Who needs a shower when you’ve got rain?


It’s 4AM and I’m alone on watch. Now that we’ve dropped some of the crew off in Madeira, we go on watch alone, like grownups! This is a first for me, since I’m still apprenticing as a sailor. While I’m on watch, I’ve been thinking about everything that happened today, and I’m laughing to myself, thinking about the rain we had this morning on the island of Madeira.

Around 5AM, it was raining like crazy, and water started leaking into the boat. I was fast asleep and Martin came to wake us up. I jumped out of bed and ran to the lounge. When I got there, I was alarmed to see a flood of water in the vicinity of the bay windows. The guys were going at it with buckets, towels, mops, basically anything that might soak up water…no need to take showers today!

Arrival in Madeira under the clouds

Martin helped us make a tarp out of trash bags and orange Scotch tape (the top-of-the-line Scotch tape J ). With that, we were able to channel the water out of the boat and into the marina. The squall didn’t last long, but it was really intense and we were all soaking wet. After quickly checking Race for Water for any other leaks, we saw that everything was fine. What a morning. Afterward we all went back to bed except Olivier, who had the misfortune to be on watch!


A high-tech fishing rod


One thing’s for sure, Race for Water is a high-tech boat, loaded with cutting-edge systems and equipment. To make the most of this technology, we have various engineers on board. They’re all highly committed, and they’re passionate about what they do. So the ideas start flying, and in no time at all they’re becoming reality.


One of the latest innovations on board Race for Water is our infamous “fish alarm.” Like most boats, we trail a fishing line off the stern. No problem there. But the not-so-fun part is checking the line when it looks like we’ve got a bite. That’s a job that very few of us volunteer for…so that’s where the fish alarm comes in. It’s pretty simple: a wire gets tripped if a fish tugs on the line, and that sets off an alarm on the bridge.

So after a few days of dragging the line, we’ve had very few bites. Too bad for the seafood lovers on board; their eyes light up at the first sound of any alarm, and then their dreams are crushed when the person on watch yells, “It’s not the fish alarm!”


Across the Atlantic with solar and wind power: Franck David explains how it’s done


Today, Race for Water set sail on her first transatlantic crossing, powered only by her kite and solar panels. Director of Operations Franck David explains the challenges of zero-emissions yachting.

Crossing the Atlantic is a whole different kind of yachting. Conditions and weather play a much greater role than when you’re cruising along a coastline, as Race for Water did on her maiden voyage from Lorient (France) to Madeira. On their way across the Atlantic, Race for Water and her crew will have to deal with many different types of weather, including the major depressions we’re seeing near Bermuda right now. We know that those depressions always move from West to East, so they’re heading in Race for Water’s direction, and the crew will have to handle them accordingly. Our crew for this leg is smaller than for Race for Water’s maiden voyage—only seven people are on board: five crewmembers, Expedition Leader Marco Simeoni, and an engineer from SkySails, the German firm responsible forh Race for Water’s kite drive system.

Race for Water enjoyed favorable wind patterns during her maiden voyage. Conditions were mild and the prevailing tailwinds allowed the crew to use the yacht’s innovative kite drive system quite a bit. On this leg to Bermuda, we know that Race for Water will be sailing into the wind and waves. We’re counting on Captain Pascal Morizot and Engineer Martin Gavériaux to make the right decisions during the crossing. On board Race for Water, they receive four weather reports per day, with forecasts for wind, sun, and waves, and they use those to plot the best course in terms of Race for Water’s available power.

Sailing under solar and wind power

Here on land, we don’t make any decisions for the crew; we just talk through the route options based on Race for Water’s speed and the conditions out on the ocean. Operating solely on solar and wind power is a learning experience for all of us, and we refined the system during Race for Water’s maiden voyage from Lorient (France) to Madeira. The crew had to learn how to manage the yacht’s two power sources: solar panels and the kite drive system. That gave us a better idea of the speeds we can expect from Race for Water in different wind and sun conditions, using the kite, solar power, or a combination of the two.



Using this data, we can fine-tune Race for Water’s course, and make the best decisions for the yacht’s unique capabilities. Aside from that, the most important factor is our crew’s morale and the atmosphere on board Race for Water, and we’re confident that everything is going really well from that point of view.

On behalf of the entire Race for Water team, thanks for following our journey!



Race for Water’s kite drive system: Edouard Kessi learns the ropes


Edouard Kessi is a well-known figure in the sailing world. He recently sailed from Cape Town, South Africa, to Antarctica, transporting the explorer Mike Horn to the start of . Along the way, Kessi had to deal with ice flows, the notorious Roaring Forties, and the unpredictable conditions of the Southern Ocean. Kessi has so many stories to tell. We recently interviewed him aboard Race for Water. But as he answered our questions, Kessi’s eyes, and his thoughts, were focused on the yacht’s innovative kite drive system. Kessi spoke with us during Race for Water’s maiden voyage, from Lorient, France, to Madeira, off the coast of Portugal.

“This yacht is an incredible piece of technology; it’s crossing the oceans to raise environmental awareness and spread the word about what is possible,” says Kessi, just after landing in Madeira. During the first five days the catamaran was at sea, engineers from the German firm SkySails worked with Race for Water’s crew to make some final adjustments to the kite, test onboard systems, and fine-tune the mechanisms that control the kite when it is deployed.

Kite plus solar panels: a successful hybrid system

“On Wednesday, we had the kite up for 14 hours, and we even managed to take it down at night with no problems,” says Kessi, clearly pleased with the results. “The kite propelled the yacht at an average speed of five knots with zero engine power. That allows the solar panels to fully recharge the yacht’s batteries.” The kite flies at an altitude of 150 meters, a level where the wind currents are strong and stable. “The key to this kite drive system is that it moves in a figure-eight pattern. That kind of dynamic motion generates so much force that it can propel a yacht that weighs over 100 tons,” reports Kessi. Depending on the wind speed, more than one kite can be deployed at once; Race for Water has five kites on board.



During the first leg of Race for Water’s journey, the crew finalized most of the important details that will allow the yacht to travel safely across the oceans. This was a huge task, and the crew worked on the kite drive system while sailing nearly 24 hours a day. “Race for Water’s entire crew and the SkySails team worked tirelessly; we accomplished everything we set out to do in terms of the kite system,” Kessi told us. “But kite propulsion systems for yachts are still evolving. Every time we launch the kite, we get new data and new results; it really keeps us motivated.” During this process, Race for Water’s technical manager Jean-Marc Normant keeps the whole team energized and working together.

Race for Water’s maiden voyage proved that these two propulsion systems—kite and solar, wind and sun—can work together to power a 100-ton yacht around the world, producing zero emissions and operating safely and efficiently.

Peter Meiwald – A German Parliementarian in Lorient

Peter Meiwald (in red shirt), Teaki Dupont, Marco Simeoni, and Alan Roura

Peter Meiwald is a German parliamentarian and a member of the Bundestag’s Environment Commission. He flew to Lorient for the departure of the Race for Water Odyssey. He shares here his impressions.  

The Future becomes a reality

What an impressing picture ! A starship, a ship ? Something really amazing, what I got to see last weekend at the old submarine-base of Lorient in France. A futuristic vessel run free of fossil-based fuels, only by the power of the sun and the wind. A deck full of photovoltaic cells, a kite to catch the wind, and an energy-storage support running on hydrogene. Shipping goes future. Finally !

Great to see, that knowing about the ecological disaster caused by extremely air-polluting and greenhouse-gas emitting fleets of ships on our oceans some courageous people (based in the landlocked country of Switzerland!) started to live their dream of emission-free cruising beyond pure sailing. A ship to show, what is possible, when engineers cross boarders of thinking, but also between nations. Pushed by the Swiss chairman of the “Race for Water-Foundation”, Marco Simeoni, a team of engineers, communicators, sailors from Switzerland, France and Germany raised up this marvellous project to serve the protection of our marine environment.

Alan Roura greets Peter Meiwald on the Race for Water.

In a very special way they bind two issues, on which I’am working as a politician for many years, together. Working for our energy-future (in German we call it “Energiewende”) and fighting against the plastic-pollution of our oceans (actually about 8 millions of tons every year) by giving researchers from many countries a base in the sea and running great sensibilisation-events alloverall in the world. And that with an extremely enthousiastic team of people burning for their ideas.

What is new on it ? The intelligent combination of solar-power, the SkySails-kite, and a hydrogen-storage-system. Once showing his performance in the realities of crossing the oceans during the upcoming 5 years it will promote the idea of emission-free shipping much better than it could be possible by international legislation-negociations. And the idea of tackeling the plastics-problem right from the land-side – i.e. by the ETIA-idea of taking plastic-waste as an energy-ressource in a decentralized system – is fitting perfectly together with the idea of building up an international plastic-convention, which we just started to discuss under the umbrella of adelphi and the Heinrich-Boell-Foundation in Berlin.

Let’s put our forces together ! Race-for-Water-Foundation, engineers, sailors, researchers, politicians like the beautiful Teaki Dupont running for French parliament or the mayor of Lorient, M. Norbert Metairie, who gave us some very clear words about our common responsibility for the protection of our environment at the press conference on the day of the departure of the vessel.


Peter Meiwald discusses with Alexandre Closset of SwissHydrogen


I was very happy having had the opportunity to participate in this great event in Lorient, accompanying the Race for Water for the first miles of her tour around the world without sending black smoke out of the boats chimney. May she always have a hand wide water under the keel!

Peter Meiwald


Leaving the dock, onward to Madera and Bermuda


As slow as a migrating shark?


As a former America’s cup racer, I never thought I’d be writing this. But I’m starting to get used to “slow-motion yachting,” cruising along at four knots, or a little less than five miles per hour.

I’ve begun to realize that speed is a relative term. Three days ago, we sailed past a pretty good-sized migrating shark, maybe 25 feet long. The shark was moving at about the same speed as Race for Water. We could have stuck together for a while, but the shark was headed north and we were headed south. On board Race for Water we feel like we’re barely moving, but that shark will cover miles and miles at that slow and steady pace.

For sure, we’re at the beginning of a great adventure.



Man overboard drill, and Bunny gets a goose egg


Tuesday was kind of a lazy day with very little wind. Definitely too little wind to put the kite up. But of course Jean-Marc had no shortage of ideas to keep us busy, starting with a man overboard drill. First, we launched the dinghy with Jean-Marc in it, and then he dropped a water jug out of the dinghy. The jug is about the size of a person’s head, so it gave us a sense of how hard it is to get a visual on something that small when we’re out at sea.

During this kind of drill, we want to make the situation as real as possible. One way to do that is to shout at full volume, as if it were an actual emergency. I saw the “man” going overboard, so I was the first one to raise the alarm on board Race for Water. I have a pretty soft voice, so I decided to really scream, using every ounce of energy I had. And it worked… even Jean-Marc, out in the dinghy, heard me. I screamed so loudly that Bunny panicked and came running out of the kitchen to see what was going on. But when he jumped over the door coaming, she forgot to duck, hit the door frame, and ended up seeing stars and nursing a huge goose egg on her forehead.

Lesson learned: even during a drill, be prepared for emergencies within the emergency.


PS: Don’t worry, we rescued the jug!

Go fly a kite


Wednesday afternoon, we were cruising along and the wind was at about 20 knots (around 20 miles per hour). What better time to put the kite up and start learning how to use it! We had it up for about half the day; at the same time, we all kept up with our daily chores, fine-tuning our systems for getting everything done on board Race for Water.

We’re certainly eating well: lunch—scrambled eggs with sautéed vegetables—was a hit, and we’re excited for Annabelle’s chocolate mousse tonight. No question, we’re all in great spirits.