Hans Peter Arp, scientist for one of the JPI Oceans study programm, entrusts to you his feeling about the Race for Water solar vessel.
“Imagine that you are standing on a large deck, completely covered with solar panels, and beyond that is only the sea and the sky. There was a moment in the deep blue waters off the coast of Cuba like this, when I contemplated this sight, feeling the gentle rise and fall of the oceans, at this interface where this technological achievement of man was easing over the surface of the ocean, leaving no damaging ecological trace. It left me with a sense of immense freedom. It was hard not to feel optimistic for the future of humanity. With boats like this in future, we can advance, explore, and experience the world, without causing harm.
That was just the top deck. The Race for Water crew have put an amazing amount of work and energy to making this vessel a scientific platform. Down below, the space is vast and bright, in fact much of it is yacht-level luxury. At the very roomy rear-deck is where we launched and deployed our sampling equipment. Though we did not yet need large equipment, there would be room enough to bring it in future. In addition, there was a spacious cabin that served as ‘wet laboratory’, having access to running water (fresh, using the solar powered desalination system on board), sinks, refrigeration, electricity (solar powered, of course!) and large tables to place all our laboratory equipment. It is a well-thought-out and pleasant research platform.
A huge highlight was the crew itself. The captain and crew went out of their way to help us get our samples, from driving that extra mile, to coming up with solutions to sudden problems that emerged, to giving us several excellent hands on deck. They often gave the impression that they were there exclusively to assist the scientists. There was an excellent level of attention paid to safety at all times, particularly during sampling. Outside of the scientific work, the crew was full of humour and kindness. The food was great too! Being a predominantly French crew, the food they prepared was always a mix of locally bought ingredients and French haut cuisine. We had many pleasant evenings with the crew both on the boat and off. Because the crew was so dedicated to the cause of understanding and minimizing the harm of plastics, it gave us a shared purpose and common ground. It is rare during scientific expeditions at sea to have a crew that is so in touch with our research needs, so enthusiastic, and so accommodating.
The platform was also an excellent opportunity to gain attention for our research, both locally where we were doing the research, and abroad. The Race for Water media team documented with high quality images, videos and interviews our sampling mission, and with the help of local contacts, ensured that our research was shared with the local community. Further, the attractiveness of being on the boat made several other researchers interested in the JPI Oceans WEATHER-MIC project. I have to admit that many of my colleagues are quite envious with my collaboration with Race for Water. In this way, Race for Water helped us raise awareness among the widest possible audience, from the public, to stake holders, to research funders.
The Race for Water vessel is how I want to see the future of marine technology, the future of marine research, and the future of humanity. It is initiatives like Race for Water, and their flagship vessel, that we need to address the ultimate and common aim of preserving our oceans, fragile as they are.” Hans Peter Arp
For the past two weeks, the Race for Water has benefited from its share of cabling, various checks and work on its hydrogen generator. From a revamp of the storage systems to the painting of the hulls, everything has been carefully considered with a view to increasing the boat’s self-sufficiency in terms of energy independence! Inevitably, this is crucial to the success and safety of the future Pacific crossing from February 2018…
Following an Atlantic crossing, navigation between the hurricanes and 6 stopovers, it was high time to focus on improving and reviewing Race for Water! On-board with the Race for Water technicians right now: the teams from Swiss Hydrogen and Barrilec, a company working on electrotechnology on warships in Lorient. “On-board, they’re busying themselves with the electronics connections and the handling of the hydrogen system. These two companies comprise highly efficient people with a huge amount of advanced skills”, comments Jean-Marc Normant, chief operations officer. Thus far, the hydrogen system has always been in its test phase, without being connected to the vessel due to a lack of certification. “In this way, the connecting up of the systems will enable us to test them in situ so as to testify to their performance”, explains Jean-Marc Normant. The next stage? Simulations of the electrolysers are planned for the end of this week.
H Y D R O G E N
Thanks to the hydrogen generator, the sailing teams will use the surplus from the solar electric production to purify sea water (H2O) before electrolysing it in order to separate the oxygen from the hydrogen. The latter will then be stored under pressure in bottles in order to be converted into electricity, on request, using a fuel cell. This electricity will then supply the same motors as the solar panels. “This work involves an impressive amount of high technology! A sort of travelling crane has been installed over the vessel and enables the teams to easily open and access the hydrogen battery,” says the chief operations officer. In December, the boat will be moved to a floating dock in order to be lifted out onto the hard so the antifouling on her hulls can be repainted.
When sailing in tropical waters, barnacles and algae very quickly attach themselves to the hull. The resulting drag can be considerable for a vessel, increasing its energy consumption by 20% to reach the same speed. “Upkeep of the hulls is a not insignificant stage in increasing self-sufficiency in terms of energy!” says Jean-Marc Normant. It’s a programme that is progressing without incident, as evidenced by this comment from the chief operations officer by way of a conclusion: “So far, so good!”
Stopover in Peru : from March 15 to May 14, 2018
Valparaiso stopover in Chile : from May 31 to July 29, 2018
Panama stopover – Panama City : from February 19 to 27, 2018