Ten days in Bermuda: in words and pictures

 

It’s already been 10 days since the Race for Water crew stepped off the yacht and onto dry land in Bermuda, after more than a month at sea. We checked in with them to get their impressions of the stopover, which included tours of Race for Water, interviews, and watching the America’s Cup races.

Logistics and stopovers coordinator Luce Molinier and Director of Operations Franck David were already in Bermuda to greet Race for Water, and they organized a full schedule of activities for the crew. Luce commented, “The crew were really happy to get back on land; they were also very tired. They got into a rhythm on board, and they definitely bonded during this first crossing.”

Race for Water gleams in Bermuda’s turquoise waters

 

Race for Water had barely arrived in the harbor when Bermuda’s Prime Minister, Michael Dunkley, came on board to congratulate Race for Water Foundation President Marco Simeoni and the crew. Marco noted, “Next, we saw Anne Hyde, the president of the Keep Bermuda Beautiful Foundation. This wasn’t our first meeting; we met her during the first Race for Water Odyssey, in 2015. It’s really impressive to see the passion that Race for Water inspires in people!”

A great viewing deck for the America’s Cup

 

Race for Water dropped anchor in the Great Sound—the site of the America’s Cup races–, and Groupama Team France’s crews and guests came on board to watch the action while learning about plastics pollution and ocean preservation. Marco Simeoni commented, “The more people we welcome on board, the greater the impact of our message of hope—our mission to preserve the oceans and spread the word with our clean-energy yacht.”

The Bermuda stopover wasn’t only about sailing, tours, and meetings. At the end of the day, the crew still had to do maintenance tasks on board Race for Water, put the ship’s furniture back in place, and clean up. First Mate Annabelle Boudinot joked, “Our second shift starts in the evening. But we’re having the time of our lives in our front-row seats for the Cup matches.”

Race for Water and Groupama Team France join forces for the America’s Cup

 

At 1:45 PM Bermuda time, Race for Water will come into port at Caroline Bay Marina, and her arrival coincides with the marina’s grand opening. This Bermuda stopover will allow Race for Water to meet up with Groupama Team France, the Foundation’s environmental partner and a participant in the world-renowned America’s Cup. Between the race, the people, and Race for Water’s educational mission, it’s sure to be an emotional time for everyone. Let’s meet Groupama Team France–strong supporters of Race for Water’s mission of hope.

The Groupama boat posts an encouraging tweet to the Race for Water crew: “We’re waiting for you! #Bermuda” Race for Water responds “#pressconf #Bermuda Tuesday May 23 at 10:30 AM on board #R4W @CarolineBayMarina #R4WO #ACT with @GroupamaTeamFR”

Photo credit: Groupama Team France, Eloi Stichelbaut

 

For this 35th America’s Cup, the Groupama France team led by Franck Cammas has joined forces with Race for Water. It’s a joint mission that combines ocean preservation, high-performance yachting, and state-of-the-art technology. The Race for Water Foundation is very proud of this partnership with Groupama Team France.

 

A PASSION FOR THE OCEANS, AND FOR TECHNOLOGICAL CHALLENGES

In 2013, Franck Cammas, Michel Desjoyeaux and Olivier de Kersauson created Team France. Together, they decided to make France a top player in the world’s top event combining racing and technology: the America’s Cup. The Race for Water Foundation and Groupama Team France share a passion for the oceans, and for performance. While Groupama Team France develops new technologies to improve their boat’s performance, Race for Water is putting new technologies to work to save our oceans.

“The Race for Water Foundation and Groupama Team France share the same passion of the ocean and high-performance: Groupama Team France develops technological innovations in order to increase their sailing performances, the Foundation proposes technological innovations for a better preservation of our ocean. This shared taste for challenge and performance brings us together to collaborate for the protection of the ocean. We are very proud to be with Groupama Team France as an environment partner on the occasion of the America’s Cup in Bermuda.”

Bruno Dubois, Team Manager de Groupama Team France

 

T MINUS THREE DAYS TO RACE TIME

Beginning on May 26, the 35th America’s Cup kicks off with the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers. Five challengers and the defender—last year’s winning team—will each race twice in a round robin head-to-head format, with each regatta lasting about 20 minutes. After that it’s on to the playoffs, including a semi-final and a final round. The winner of the playoffs final is named the Challenger, and they’ll go on to race the Defender (USA) in the America’s Cup Match, held over the weekends of June 17 and 18, and June 24 and 25.

Video credit: Groupama Team France

One kite: two revolutions

 

Race for Water uses two energy sources: sun and wind. The yacht’s on-board wind power isn’t from a traditional turbine—it’s a steerable kite sail that tows Race for Water as it flies. These two technologies were selected for maximum power and intelligent automation.

 

This is Race for Water’s challenge: using a seamless mix of renewable energy sources—sun and wind—to show that the transition to clean energy is possible. This involves learning how to manage multiple energy sources at once, using only the energy produced on board the yacht, and, most importantly, continuing to innovate. On board Race for Water, wind energy comes from a steerable kite sail manufactured by Skysails Yacht. The kite is attached to Race for Water by a cable, and it flies 150 meters above the boat. Amazingly, it provides all the power needed to tow the 100-ton yacht through the water. How is this kite different from a traditional sail? The kite’s major innovation is that it operates completely independently from the rest of the yacht.

 

 

FIGURE-EIGHTS IN THE SKY

It flies in a figure-eight pattern that is completely independent from the yacht’s motion, which allows the kite to fly much faster than Race for Water travels. In fact, this figure allows the kite to increase its speed, by creating apparent wind, wind that it produces by moving. This gives the kite incredible traction power. Using a control pod—a smart box located under the kite’s surface—the kite sail flies in a figure-eight motion. This allows the kite to increase its speed by creating a higher relative wind speed—it creates its own wind as it moves through the air. Each figure-eight motion generates up to two metric tons of force on the cable.

The control pod

 

Without this motion, the kite would simply fly like a flag above the ship. Race for Water’s crew has shown that a 40 m2 kite and a 10-knot tailwind are enough to tow the boat with no additional power. They have five kites on board, ranging from 10 to 40 m2; these can tow Race for Water in winds coming from any direction in the 180 degrees behind the boat.

From reality to schematization

 

INDEPENDENCE AND INTELLIGENCE

The control pod located below the kite’s surface is a smart device: it allows the crew to securely manage the kite’s flight. If the wind’s strength or direction changes, the size of the kite’s figure-eight path and window of movement are automatically adjusted according to real-time wind condition measurements.

Setting up the kite

 

A variety of sensors take wind measurements for the kite and the yacht. Those measurements are then sent to a computer for analysis, and the computer communicates with the pod via wi-fi, specifying the size of the figure-eight pattern and its position relative to the boat. Kite developer Edouard Kessi explains, “The only adjustment the crew has to make is the kite’s altitude. And an alarm tells them when to do that.” For example, in very strong winds, the crew positions the kite almost vertical to the yacht, and the figure-eight motions stop. Kessi jokes, “The hardest thing about a flying machine is that it’s constantly trying to crash.” But with the kite sail’s smart, autonomous control pod, it’s completely safe to fly.

From computer to data projection (table @Martin , Race for Water engineer)

 

The crew is now learning about the performance that they can expect from the kite’s technology. Crewmember and engineer Martin Gavériaux explains, “For a month now, we’ve been testing the different kites in different wind conditions. During the Lorient – Bermuda navigation, the kite flew 25% of the time (during the days). Then we analyze the data to see how much energy we saved and how much speed we gained with the each kite. This helps us plan for more energy-independence and faster sailing, depending on the conditions.” These are promising results, and all signs point to Race for Water being able to reach speeds of 10 knots in a 25-knot tailwind, without using the electric motors.

 

Race for Water’s stopover in Madeira: Annabelle Boudinot and Mafalda Freitas fill us in

 

We’re getting close to Bermuda, and Madeira is already a distant memory! It looks like these two stopovers will be completely different. We’ll stay in Bermuda for over a month, and we’ll play a major role in the America’s Cup—the world’s most famous sailing race. Plans for the event have been in the works for years, and our exact arrival time has been calculated down to the minute! While we’re out at sea, I’ve been thinking about Madeira. It started out as a technical stopover lasting a couple of days, and a chance to drop off some of the crew. But it quickly turned into a real stopover on our journey, due to the energy and enthusiasm of the local people. Race for Water was barely moored when the TV crews boarded to interview Jean-Marc [Backup captain and technical director Jean-Marc Normant]. We were all over the newspapers. And the Funchal yacht club rolled out the welcome mat for us, even putting on a lunch at their club and inviting all of the island’s most prominent ocean conservationists.

The Funchal Yacht Club welcomes Race for Water

Not to mention that we were provided with a car and a driver to go shopping for supplies, a Zodiac for our arrival and departure, and the port staff who regularly dropped by to see if we needed anything. They truly bent over backward to answer all of our questions! To round things out, we got a taste of how interested people are in Race for Water: many of the islanders came out on the dock to admire the boat, and they even paddled out on their stand-up paddleboards to get a better look!

Marco Simeoni and Race for Water’s captains with Antonio Cunha and a member of the Funchal yacht club

 

The crew were eager to get on land, away from the boat’s constant movements on the water. We took advantage of Madeira’s lush vegetation, restaurants and—in moderation—the local bars!”

Annabelle

 

Mafalda Freitas, director of the Funchal marine biology station and president of the Funchal yacht club, describes her meeting with the Race for Water Foundation.

I was thrilled to see Race for Water and meet her crew. There’s no doubt, this is an innovative and progressive project. But Race for Water’s journey has another important goal: helping to protect our ocean environment. Race for Water is a real-world example of the transition to a world where we use only clean energy. This mission shows that we can reduce C02 emissions in terms of energy, but we can also reduce the noise and pollution generated by boats. And Race for Water’s technology is highly innovative! It shows that a yacht can be completely self-sufficient when it comes to energy, by using a combination of renewable energy sources from its kite and solar panels.

Mafalda Freitas with Marco Simeoni and Race for Water’s crew

 

Energy and pollution on Madeira

Could Race for Water be an inspiration to an island like Madeira? Our island currently uses five energy sources: hydraulic, wind, photovoltaic, urban solid waste incineration, and thermal energy from fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas. Since 2015, we’ve been implementing the MaRaM strategy to combat ocean pollution in the Autonomous Region of Madeira (Stratégie de Combat de la Pollution de la Mer de la Region Autonome de Madeira (MaRaM))

It specifies zero tolerance for illegal ocean pollution. We intend to step up our activities to effectively prevent pollution. In order to do that, we have to account for the needs and desires of our government, civil society institutions, and our residents.

Mafalda Freitas

 

In the middle of the Atlantic: we check in with the crew

 

Quartermaster Olivier Rouvillois is in a groove

“Every morning, after a fantastic breakfast, I flip through my cookbooks, think about what we’re going to eat that day, stick some Post-it notes on the day’s recipes, and then I head down into the hold where we store the food. I always start with fruits and vegetables. It’s pitch black, I’m crawling around with my headlamp on, and I have to check over the produce and pick out the good stuff. Then everything has to be cleaned, and I separate out what we’re going to use that day. Part of my job is helping the chef out by prepping the ingredients for the two meals we cook every day.

Fruit and vegetable on board

Today was our Engineer Martin Gavériaux’s turn to cook. I marked the recipes for him, and then he got to work. He whipped up a wonderful crisp salad and a mouth-watering sauté: we all pronounced it worthy of a gourmet restaurant!”

Martin, top chef of the day and his guests

 

After two weeks at sea, we check in with Mate Anne Le Chantoux

“Sometimes I dream that I’m on land. I guess that subconsciously, I miss it, but at the same time it’s amazing to be surrounded by blue water. Crossing the Atlantic is such a great opportunity, maybe once in a lifetime, so I’m trying to make the most of every day!”

The sea

“Our sense of time seems to be changing too. It’s already been two weeks since we left Funchal, Madeira and set our course for Bermuda. But it feels a lot longer. Crossing the Atlantic on Race for Water is a slow process, but I knew that before we left. But I’m realizing that you can’t really conceptualize how long an expedition will take until it’s already underway. Annelore (First Mate Annelore Le Duff) told me that she felt the same way when she went to Australia. When you look at it on a map, of course you see that the ocean is huge. But the reality doesn’t sink in until you start traveling for miles and miles at a relatively slow pace.

Pascal, captain of the ship and Martin, engineer in the light of night

Then there’s the feeling of being totally alone. We’ve seen maybe four or five ships since we left Funchal, and I was really expecting that we’d see more. Sometimes dolphins swim up alongside the hulls and keep us company for a while, and we’ve had a few flying fish land on the solar panels (unfortunately they have a hard time taking off again).

Solar panels

On board Race for Water, our schedule is pretty similar to when we were in port, getting the boat ready to leave…just in slow motion. We have a list of everyone’s chores, we have to keep things in order on the ship, and we have a chart where we rotate jobs to keep “family” life going on board. Morale is good; we’re happy and we keep each other motivated.

I’ve been working a lot with Olivier (Quartermaster Olivier Rouvillois) on getting things organized and making the most of our space. We’ve set up shelving so that we can store the kites and pods, and we’ve worked on the lab so that the scientists can make the most of the space that we have for them. And we’ve worked on lots of other things too!”

Another sunset

Finally, a fish on the line: and plastic in its stomach

 

It’s been nearly a month since Race for Water left Lorient, France. Our average speed is four or five miles an hour, which is ideal for catching fish. The crew set up two lines that we pull behind the boat; and because we’re a high-tech operation, we even installed a fish alarm that goes off when we get a bite. But after more than 20 days at sea, we had caught absolutely nothing…the hooks were bare. We started wondering if there were still any fish left in the Atlantic, or whether we were using the wrong kind of bait.

 

A dorado, and something unexpected

 

Then last night (Friday, May 5), the port line started twitching. Captain Pascal Morizot hauled it in, and on the hook was a dorado, also known as a mahi-mahi. Finally, our first fish since leaving Lorient! Pascal lived in French Polynesia for years, so he’s an expert at cleaning fish. He got right to work. And what do you know…there was a piece of plastic in the dorado’s stomach. Here we are in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, and the first fish we’ve caught in 20 days has plastic inside it!

Captain Pascal Morizot with the dorado

During our short stopover in Madeira, we met a biologist who told us that even though swordfish are caught at depths of up to 2,600 feet, more than half of them have plastic in their stomachs. I haven’t been out here since our 2015 expedition, but all of a sudden, I remembered all of the stories we heard from fishermen, and how worried and helpless they felt about the scourge of plastics in the ocean.

The plastic: white and straw-like, about three inches long. The crew kept it, to send to our scientific teams.

 

As plastics continue to pollute our oceans, some of the Race for Water Foundation’s on-shore teams are aggressively looking for financial partners to support our programs. But because plastics pollution in the oceans is a touchy issue, many big businesses would rather ignore it.

 

Keeping hope alive

 

I think that this mahi-mahi sends an important message: that the Race for Water Foundation absolutely must stay on course and keep fighting for the oceans. We must find solutions and keep up hope for the next generation.

But at the same time, we can’t fight alone. We need significant financial support from the public in order to follow through with our mission. Please pass the word on, like a message in a bottle!

 

Marco, President, Race for Water

 

The colors of sunrise

 

The 6AM to 8AM watch is probably one of the best shifts to have. You’ve generally gotten a good night’s sleep, and everything is quiet on board, because everyone else is sound asleep. It’s a chance to enjoy the silence of the ocean and the beauty of the skies.

Tonight, the sky is incredible. It’s clear, there are so many stars, even a few shooting stars, and I can see some planets. Venus looks huge; there are also a few satellites. I flop down in a beanbag chair, with some music playing in the background. It’s a group called “Fakear” playing on shuffle. As luck would have it, the first song on the playlist is “Dancing stars.” What more could I ask for? Excellent timing.

At 6:35, the dark sky starts melting into a deep blue. Bands of orange, red, and deep yellow slowly fade to pale, and soon the sun will peek over the horizon. I can still see Venus.

 

Of course I keep a close eye out for other ships (we haven’t seen any for five days) and unidentified floating objects. Even in the midst of this beauty, you can never let your guard down.

Barely an hour later, sunrise is over, the darkness is completely gone and I’m surrounded by pinks, blues, oranges, and yellows. The colors are pale, and there are a few clouds. The sun still isn’t up, but it will be soon. It’s really starting to glow to the east. The changing colors are breathtaking; I’m struck by them every time I see them, and it’s a sight I never get sick of.

At 8AM, Pascal will take over the watch and everyone on board will slowly start to roll out of bed. A new day begins.

Anne

Twenty-four hours in a low-pressure system

 

Martin had warned us that a depression was approaching from the north, and that there was no way around it. Fortunately, we were able to avoid the worst of it by staying to the south, charting our course to stay within the maximum conditions that Race for Water can withstand. The bulk of the depression passed in front of us, but we still had some strong winds and high seas: 30/35 knots of wind with gusts to 40 knots, and 12 to 15-foot waves.

Fortunately we had time to get ready. It was the first time that we’d experienced those kinds of conditions on Race for Water, so we watched carefully to see how she behaved. We were totally focused. When the wind picked up, we had to retract the solar panel wings so that they didn’t smash into the waves as the seas got higher. At times, Race for Water listed hard enough that the wings were only an inch or so above the waves.

To retract the wings, we have to go out on the bridge and walk right on the panels, which requires some careful maneuvering. Between the rain and the boat listing back and forth, the panels are like a skating rink; whoever goes out on them has to be very agile. In the end, Martin went out on the deck to have a go at it, of course wearing a tether on his harness. In about half an hour, the job was done.

Martin maneuvering in a storm

There was lots to organize inside Race for Water as well. We had to secure the tables and chairs, and stow everything else: computers, video and photo equipment, etc. Everything had to be prepared for the conditions, and we really didn’t have too many things bumping around inside the boat. One of the fridge doors came open, a coffee pot in the storeroom fell off the shelf, and down in the hold, a crate of carrots and one of the extra solar panels broke, but really nothing serious.

In terms of actually sailing the boat, we were running with the wind, and Pascal found a good compromise in terms of power. We raised the rear solar panels for maximum speed as the wind kicked up behind us. We steered Race for Water manually, rather than risk having the autopilot disengage and ending up broadside to a wave. At one point, we stalled out with the autopilot engaged when a 40-knot gust kicked up…and our punishment was a slap from a broadside wave. The impact to the hull was fairly intense, and Race for Water listed pretty dramatically.

Steering Race for Water manually is an exercise in concentration. It’s not easy; she weighs 100 metric tons. We’re always trying to anticipate the path that she’ll take, and we really have to counter-steer when we get picked up by a wave. Even taking turns at the helm every 15-20 minutes, we’re pushed to the limit, going at over 10 knots on the waves.

Rain and wind squall – Annabelle at the helm

In bad weather, little problems can quickly become big problems. If the Zodiac slips out of place, or rudder angle indicator gets disconnected, or the edge of one of the solar panels gets jammed, things can go downhill quickly.

But now it’s over, and we’re fine. The swell was still pretty strong this morning, but it gradually settled down, and so did the wind.

After the rain, the sun always returns.

Olivier