French sailor Thomas Coville holds the solo around-the-world sailing record. This Sunday, he’ll set off across the Atlantic in The Bridge, a race from Saint-Nazaire, France, to New York. In addition to being a world-class sailor, Coville is committed to preserving our oceans, and serves as a Race for Water Ambassador. We recently caught up with him between expeditions.
Race for Water: What made you decide to become a Race for Water Foundation Ambassador?
Thomas Coville: My role as an Ambassador is to show people that I believe in this bold, worldwide initiative; even if some people still think that change can’t happen. It can—when people take on a project that’s as ambitious as Race for Water’s. Change can happen by raising awareness through action, or in concrete ways, by implementing cutting-edge technologies and techniques. I’m excited about contributing my energy to the Foundation’s work. I truly hope that my energy, and my faith in this project—which is incredible from the technical point of view, but which also includes ideas, hopes, and ambitions—will help to change the world. Hopefully, it will even change our mindset about energy, our relationship with other people, and perhaps have a positive effect on conflicts in the world.
R4W: What does the sea represent for you?
TC: In the end, the sea is much more than “just” the sea; it’s more than a playground to me. The oceans have no borders; they allow us to have an impact on people everywhere, from every kind of background, whether or not they like to sail. Some people might call Race for Water’s plans crazy; they’re coming to life only because of people who love to rise to a so-called “impossible” challenge. That’s why bold thinkers can change the world. Race for Water and its odyssey of hope are living proof of that message.
R4W: What’s your hope for the future of the oceans?
TC: I’m hoping to take away some of the stress and pessimism that most people feel about ecology and the environment in general. Right now, the result of that is that the general public, and the media, and businesses have a hard time supporting environmental preservation. I’m already looking past that, where the issue of ocean degradation gives us the opportunity to change—because we don’t have a choice. It’s an opportunity that we have to capitalize on, right now.
Thomas Coville (second from left), with Marco Simeoni, Jean-Marc Normant, and Franck David. “I love this incredible trio: Marco, Franck, and Jean-Marc. I’m inspired and motivated by their work and their ideas.”
For the past two weeks, the daily schedule on board Race for Water has centered around giving tours for children from the local schools. The students—ages eight to 18—have been touring Race for Water’s on-board exhibits, taking a walk on the solar-panel deck and getting to know the crew. The whole experience is an exercise in raising young people’s awareness about ocean preservation on a large scale, and the crew have been thrilled to pitch in.
“It’s big! Like a spaceship!” As the students waited in line on the dock, they got a chance to admire Race for Water before boarding. First Mate Annabelle Boudinot then gave them a “Welcome aboard!” in her new role as the ship’s tour guide. Once the students filed onto the gangway, there was absolutely no pushing and shoving; everyone had to watch their step and make sure not to fall. As the students explored their new environment, they were clearly mesmerized by what they saw. Up on deck, everyone rushed to welcome the new arrivals: Anne was already there with another class, giving tours one after another!
“Here we are in the ship’s mess hall, which is our main living area on board,” Annabelle explained. As the students took a close look around the room, they saw that the wood-paneled walls were covered with posters about Race for Water’s on-board systems and the Race for Water Foundation’s vision to fight plastics pollution. Annabelle gave a big smile and launched into her presentation, as the kids looked on in amazement. She then had the students pass a jar full of micro-plastics around, and told them, “This little jar holds all of the micro-plastics that we collected from a square of sand that measured just 25 centimeters on each side.” The students were able to look at samples of macro-plastics in another container. Annabelle then showed them the tooth marks on those pieces of plastic, sad evidence that animals had eaten them: “Every sea turtle has plastic in its stomach. We want the children to leave with an awareness that plastics pollution is truly a disaster for marine life,” Annabelle reported.
To solve the problem of plastics pollution, we must take action here on land, before the plastics get into the oceans. When we explain to children that there are different types of plastic, that plastic isn’t biodegradable and that it pollutes the ocean for a very, very long time, the students understand the importance of preserving the oceans around them. But, as Annabelle says, “We talk to them about solutions, and we explain the everyday actions that they can take to prevent plastics pollution.”
F R O M W O R D S T O A C T I O N
After they’re done with the exhibit and Annabelle’s presentation, the students tour Race for Water. “My cabin is on the port side, the storeroom is on the starboard side, and that’s where the scientists store their equipment,” Annabelle tells them. The students have tons of questions: “What do you do for food? And what about your families? Do you ever get to see them again?” After walking through the cockpit crammed with navigational instruments, the students get to experience the deck covered with solar panels. “You can even walk on top of them!” one student is amused to note. After their theory lesson, the students come face-to-face with reality: without sunshine, the panels don’t produce electricity and Race for Water can’t go anywhere. Annabelle tells them, “That’s why we added another on-board energy source—our wind-powered kite.” The students’ questions get more technical, but they have an easier time understanding the answers now that they’ve seen Race for Water for themselves. “Why can’t you use both kites at once? What do you have to do to be a part of the crew, do you take interns?” Engineer Martin Gavériaux joins the tour to answer their questions. He tells us, “I explain that even as crew members, we’re still learning how to manage the mix of energy sources!” The most important thing is this—the students understand that right now, it’s possible to live on board a ship and to sail around the world using only renewable energy.
Climate change is killing the oceans. What’s the solution? The clean energy transition. The Race for Water vessel is on an odyssey of hope, to show that this transition is possible. But what are young people saying about it?
Oceans cover 70% of the Earth’s surface and are home to 95% of the life on our planet. Preserving the oceans is a must, because they silently regulate our climate. There are a variety of arguments in play, and we have to act now—not only to preserve the oceans, but to preserve our future.
When it comes to this mission, the Race for Water Foundation believes that young people must play a crucial role: they are the decision-makers of tomorrow. They must understand what global warming is, but they must also believe in a solution: the transition to clean energy. We recently spoke with three students at Le Rosey, a world-renowned international school in Switzerland that has been educating students for more than a century. How do these 18 year-olds envision our world in the future, and what are their thoughts on preserving our oceans?
The Race for Water is the Foundation’s proof that a world free of fossil fuels is possible—the vessel will circle the globe, powered only by renewable energy sources that work seamlessly together, and that are backed by multiple electricity-storage systems. Does that sound like Greek to you? Once you’re on board, it’s crystal-clear! During Race for Water’s Odyssey of Hope, young people worldwide will have the opportunity to board the Race for Water and learn about this “energy mix,”—they’ll see the vessel in action, and thus understand what the energy transition truly means.
Race for Water’s Bermuda stopover continues, and the Race for Water Foundation has spearheaded a variety of actions aimed at preserving our oceans. Between meetings, beach clean-ups and sailing Race for Water, the crew is even more dedicated to their mission–and the land-based teams are more motivated than ever!
June 8 was the first World Oceans Day—a celebration held alongside the United Nations Ocean Conference, June 5-9 in New York. To honor this incredible initiative, the entire Race for Water Foundation—in Switzerland, in France and in Bermuda—came together to celebrate and take action.
The entire Race for Water Foundation came together to celebrate World Oceans Day
Big thanks to everyone who joined in, to accompany Race for Water on this mission to preserve our oceans. We were joined on board the yacht by:
- A representative from Bermuda’s Ministry of Environment: Drew Petit, Acting Director of Parks
- The Consul of France, Nicole Hariza
- Two staff members from the US Consulate: Linda L. Rosalik and Camille Haley
- Local NGOs: Anne, from Keep Bermuda Beautiful, Ken Vickers, from Ocean Support Foundation, Alicia Wanklyn, from Greenrock and Alan Burland, from the Sloop Foundation – all really engaged in ocean conservancy.
Race for Water: a place to have conversations, share ideas, and raise awareness
THE TEAM IN ACTION
In addition to being a platform for dialogue, Race for Water’s odyssey of hope is also about taking action. On June 6, the teams organized a beach clean-up at Church Bay, one of Bermuda’s most beautiful beaches. Camille Rollin, a specialist with the Race for Water Foundation’s Plastic Waste-to-Energy project, commented, “We collected an unbelievable amount of plastics in less than an hour. The worst thing was the density of plastic microparticles on this very small beach—even though locals clean the beach on a regular basis. That’s terrifying, and it’s proof of the sheer volume of plastics that are in the ocean today.”
A beach clean-up for World Environment Day
On June 1, Race for Water hosted her first on-board workshop on plastic waste management. NGOs, industry representatives and local politicians had the chance to meet and learn about the Race for Water Foundation’s vision, and about potential solutions.
Race for Water Foundation president Marco Simeoni noted, “This meeting on board Race for Water was a rousing success, bringing together Sylvan Richards–Bermuda’s Minister of Environment and Planning, industry representatives, engineers, and local NGOs. These results have definitely motivated us to organize more sessions like this one!” One of the Foundation’s missions is to initiate a multi-stakeholder dialogue on plastics pollution, and then, to spark a movement—encouraging these stakeholders to work together to find solutions.
Race for Water Foundation president Marco Simeoni kicks off the morning workshop with Serge Pittet, Director General of the Foundation.
A SENSE OF URGENCY
The session had barely gotten going when Sylvan Richards, Bermuda’s Minister of Environment and Planning, described what’s at stake, and why we must act urgently on this issue. “Plastic is everywhere. On an island such as ours, where we’re proud of our natural beauty and history, plastic has become a real threat: to marine ecosystems, to our economy, but also by contaminating the food chain and thus, human health as well,” Richards said. He then added, “Yes, plastics pollution has been acknowledged as a global threat, but I’m convinced that the solution must be local.”
“We hope to continue our ongoing relationship with the Race for Water Foundation. On our end, we’ll keep creating effective policies for fighting the plastics that are clogging our oceans,” says Sylvan Richards.
NGOs, industry representatives and engineers then spoke about the many actions that are in progress. Anne Hyde, president of the NGO Keep Bermuda Beautiful, explained, “We’ve created a marine debris working group, including multiple organizations on our island. Our goal is to raise public awareness of the impact of marine debris on the oceans, to assess the quantity of marine debris that washes up on our coasts, and to develop initiatives to reduce our waste production.” Geoff Smith, an environmental engineer with the Bermuda Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, added to the discussion, giving his assessment of the major role played by local environmental policies and regulations. Nasir Wade, an engineer from the Tynes Bay Waste to Energy Facility, presented a historical overview of waste management in Bermuda, and the strategic choices made to provide solutions to this ever-growing problem.
Up to down: Anne Hyde, Geoff Smith and Nasir Wade speak during the workshop.
A NEED FOR SOLUTIONS
The Race for Water Foundation’s vision is to prevent plastic waste from reaching the oceans, through improved collection of plastics on land. Marco Simeoni explains, “We’re currently working on a technology called Biogreen®, with our partner ETIA. This will allow us to convert discarded plastics into an energy resource. This will have an economic, environmental, and social impact.” This news sparked many questions from the ecological, social, and environmental perspective– Foundation members and ETIA Director Olivier Lepez were thrilled to answer. Camille Rollin, a specialist with the Race for Water Foundation’s Plastic Waste-to-Energy project, added, “Right now, the technology that we’re demonstrating shows that solutions exist, and that this technology can help us start solving the problem fairly quickly. These innovations make even more sense in isolated areas such as islands. But solving the plastic waste problem also requires coordinated, simultaneous activities—educating the public about managing, recycling, and collecting waste.” From June 8-13, Race for Water will host students and other visitors, in order to educate the public at large.
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.”
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
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.
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!”
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.