Race for Water sets sail from Guadeloupe bound for Panama City!

This Sunday 28 January brings to an end a four-month stopover in Guadeloupe punctuated by a series of exchanges and refit operations. Next destination, Panama City! This latest stage of the odyssey will enable the crew to trial the vessel’s new features before heading into the Pacific Ocean.

Originally setting sail from Lorient in France in April 2017, the Race for Water vessel is powered solely by a mixture of renewable energies. Her mission? To criss-cross the seas of the globe in order to raise awareness among the local populations about plastic pollution and carry out scientific campaigns, with the focus on proposing sustainable technological solutions geared at preventing plastic waste from ever reaching the oceans again.

On the programme for 2018, the Pacific Ocean! Lima, Valparaiso and Easter Island, Polynesia and Fiji will be this year’s key stopovers. For the Race For Water Odyssey teams, the reasoning behind this choice of venue is the massive scale of the plastic pollution in these coastal cities and remote islands. “At each stopover, we’ll be hosting a number of local protagonists aboard the boat, including political decision-makers, manufacturers and NGO members in order to open up discussions about this terrible problem. Together we’ll consider lasting innovative technological solutions with environmental, social and economic benefits”, explains Marco Simeoni, President of the Race For Water Foundation.

With regards to the sailing element of the programme, everything has been geared towards increasing our self-sufficiency in terms of energy. “To navigate the Pacific Ocean, we must make the best possible use of all the energy resources we have at our disposal, like sun, wind and water”, says Marco Simeoni.

The low-down on the upcoming stopovers

  • Panama: from 19 to 27 February, the vessel will moor in Panama City where various events will be organised, including those with Suez Environnement
  • Lima (Peru): from 15 March to 14 May
  • Valparaiso (Chile): from 31 May to 29 July
Map of the Race For Water Odyssey 2017-2021


Focus on renewable energy via kite

A 100-tons kite surfer

The trip from Guadeloupe to Panama is set to involve wind conditions that favour the use of the traction kite, with little call for electric propulsion. So how does this work? Measuring 40m2, this sail is capable of towing the entire 100-tonne vessel, thus enabling it to use the solar energy to recharge the batteries. Coupled up to the Race for Water vessel by cable, the wing is flown at an altitude of over 100 metres high, where it performs a series of figure of eight movements to increase its ability to ‘catch’ the wind, which is key to enabling it to propel large vessels and be managed in an automated manner. Once the kite is aloft, it is adjusted to the changes in breeze using an automatic pilot system developed by the company Skysails Yacht. “During Race For Water’s first year of sailing we recovered a massive amount of data about how the kite operates. This information then enabled us to refine the autopilot system and thus improve the kite’s performance”, says Sven Kilingenberg, co-founder of Skysails Yacht. This first sail of the year will enable the Skysails Yacht teams to trial this new software and sail all night long for the first time.


The Atlantic in figures

Children visiting the Race for Water vessel

1,400 children aboard the vessel were taught about issues with plastic pollution of oceans
Over 100 local protagonists (government, manufacturers and NGOs) invited aboard
1,000 people invited to general public conferences organised in universities
15 researchers of 6 different nationalities focusing on 3 international projects
443-million individuals potentially impacted by the media coverage.

Meeting eco-citizen children

With the sun barely surfaced in Guadeloupe, Peter loads his camera, video camera and tripod into the boot of the car. After over an hour’s drive, we arrive in St-François, on the so-called Grande-Terre section of the island, to track down a very special class

These students, which the crew of the Race For Water vessel welcomed on-board back in September, are in charge of preserving a beach. Indeed, just a matter of months ago, with the school year just beginning, they got a handle on the mission entrusted to them: campaigns to raise awareness among local inhabitants about the pollution, regular collections of waste and contact with town halls would become part of the daily routine for the children involved. After four months at school, what have they achieved?   

As we creep into this little school enveloped in lush greenery, someone tells us where we can find the class. Having barely set foot inside, Peter unpacks his gear, sets up his video camera and films the children. There isn’t a sound and the children look at us in stunned amazement, slightly uncomfortable about this morning intrusion. Midway through her lesson on ‘marine advice’, the teacher smiles and then explains how the lesson will play out: “Twice a week, we discuss the action we wish to undertake on our beach in order to preserve this fragile ecosystem”, explains Yanni Bardail, Director of the school and Head of the class.

During school, the children discuss how to preserve their beach before acting on the field


Among the class’ upcoming actions is the grand unveiling of their notices to raise awareness about preserving the environment, which will be posted up along the beach. “We also visit our beach to chat with the people that go walking there. Sometimes, when we offer someone advice, they take it badly and don’t want to listen to us! Fortunately, that’s not often the case”, explains Basile, 10. “We also wrote to Mr President Emmanuel Macron!”, adds Océane, 9. Somewhat amused, the Director explains to us that any decision is democratic here and that the majority of students wanted to invite the latter to the official inauguration of their signs. In addition to these actions, the children have collected rubbish, sorted it and counted it before creating graphs from the information and using them during maths lessons. “What we do out in the field is useful to what they learn in class and it motivates them”, says Yanni Bardail. “Visiting the Race for Water vessel was a revelation for these children”. Touched to learn that their mission to combat plastic pollution was being defended and undertaken by others, they were keen to find out more about energy-related topics and get a grasp of what hydrogen was. “In light of all their questions, I asked a chemistry teacher to come into class and we manufactured our own hydrogen”, the Director tells us.

Collecting plastics and Learning statistics with it !


To date, there are 8 such classes in Guadeloupe and other requests to participate in this type of programme are coming in from all over the island. “If I had to say one thing to the Race For Water teams, it would be thank you. For the hope they give us, for their motivation and for their action”, concludes the Director. The students back up this sentiment. “This planet is ours and if we don’t take action we won’t be able to live here in the proper manner when we’re grown up. It’s very important”.

In interview with Peter, children speak about their convictions


Three months of revisions ? Discover what’s new !


And we’re up and rolling once more! After a refit of over three months, multiple revisions and other improvements, the Race for Water vessel is ready to set sail for the Pacific Ocean! So, what’s changed aboard?

“On 10 December 2017, the vessel left the port to go in for her refit in the IMM shipyard, where she was lifted clear of the water using a massive barge”, explains Jean-Marc Normant, Technical Director and captain of the vessel. Shipyards boasting infrastructure such as this are few and far between and it’s the reason why the Foundation chose Pointe-à-Pitre for its technical pit stop. The barge, a kind of submerged base on which the vessel sits, can be raised so that the vessel is completely clear of the water. A ‘dry dock’ in technical terms, which has enabled the teams to check the usually submerged sections of the vessel’s hulls, fair them and then repaint them. “First off you have to pressure wash the hulls. Next up she must be faired all over before being repainted with antifouling, a paint that slows the inevitable return of the algae growth”, Jean-Marc explains. With new paint, the ability of the hulls to slip through the water increases. On a vessel like Race for Water, clean hulls equate to a 15% gain in speed and her range is increased as a result.

Figure 1: The Race for Water vessel in dry dock and the work on the submerged hull sections

“To prepare her to be painted, second in command, Annelore, took on the bulk of the work with the teams from the IMM yard”, says the Technical Director. “There were three members of Race for Water on site at any one time and those that work at the yard provided us with some valuable assistance”. In addition to the painting, the teams dismantled the propellers, checked the propeller shafts, which are the shafts that link the propellers to the electric engines, and gave both of these an overhaul.

Figure 2: From the engines to the propeller, everything has had an overhaul!

Meantime, Basile Prime, the on-board engineer, spent several weeks configuring new systems for the on-board electronics. The upshot of this is a new on-board touchscreen dedicated solely to managing the hydrogen energy, which is coupled up to the existing instrument panel. To guarantee the safety of the scientists and divers, a new ladder has been installed on the boat’s aft section. According to Jean-Marc, there’s no doubt, the vessel is “Gleaming and ready to set sail in complete safety!”

With regards to the kite technology, the teams from Skysails will be coming aboard between now and late January, to set up the kite’s latest state-of-the-art autopilot system. This new version has been developed using the data obtained at sea during the Atlantic crossing. A long stopover has enabled the teams to carry out a complete overhaul of the vessel so as to further increase her energy range.

Figure 3: A sunny relaunch