Late afternoon, on Wednesday 23 August, the Race for Water vessel docked in the military port of Sans-Souci in Santo Domingo, completing the third leg of its round the world mission at the service of the oceans. Powered solely by renewable energies, the wind, the sun and the ocean, the 100-tonne catamaran took some 16 days to make the Dominican Republic from Cuba in what its engineer, Martin Gavériaux, describes as difficult conditions. On its arrival, the crew of Race for Water led by Pascal Morizot, were greeted by a delegation from the Swiss Embassy in Santo Domingo, and by the local soldiers, under the supervision of their commander, Sr. Miguel Peña Acosta. Gathered together around Marco Simeoni, President of the Race for Water Foundation, the crew promptly linked onto the Think Innovation conference in readiness for another diverse and action-packed stopover, this time in the Dominican Republic.
Martin, how were the sailing conditions during this leg between Cuba and the Dominican Republic?
Martin Gavériaux: “We had a fairly difficult leg, alternating between days that weren’t very favourable for sailing such a boat, namely punching into strong wind and current, and calmer days bordering on being too calm, with downwind conditions albeit fairly light. Peaks of speed weren’t part of the equation needless to say! In addition to these tough conditions, the starboard motor failed and tropical storm Harvey rolled through. All in all, it took us 16 days to cover around 1,000 miles. It’s worth noting that weighing in at 100 tonnes and powered by a solar-hydrogen-kite concoction, Race for Water is not a quick boat by design. On her best days, with the exception of a single day powered by kite (5-knot average), we only managed a 3-knot average speed and in the worst conditions, it was down to 1.5 knots. In the open ocean, such a low speed isn’t really a problem, but when you’re rounding a headland making 1.5 knots, the landscape doesn’t seem to change, so you’re aware that you’re not very quick. That’s how it is though! Life is governed by the rhythm of the meteorological conditions.”
How did you manage to monitor Harvey’s progress and what was it like when the system rolled through?
Martin Gavériaux: “We have wind and wave files aboard, which we download a minimum of once a day when conditions are good and 2 to 3 times a day when we want to keep an eye on a weather phenomenon. Each day, we also receive a weather report from an American site managed by the meteorologists from the NOAA, which provide a daily review of how tropical storms are evolving. This data, combined with the boat’s various parameters, enable us to adapt our course accordingly. Given that we know we’re not quick across the water, we have to anticipate the weather phenomena as early as possible, especially in the Caribbean, in the midst of the cyclone season. Each day, we study the possible evolution of the phenomena over a large geographical zone. In this way, we saw Harvey forming and opted to take shelter. We were nicely protected at anchor and didn’t experience any extreme conditions; just a strong gale. However, we’d never have risked rounding Cap Rojo with a single motor. Race for Water isn’t sufficiently seaworthy to deal with winds in excess of 30 knots and heavy seas, even with two fully functioning motors.”
What was the atmosphere like aboard during the worst of the storm?
Martin Gavériaux: “It was very studious, since we made the most of the stopover to carry out tests on the starboard motor. The whole crew came to assist in addition to their everyday tasks. There was no downtime. The decision to go hove to was something that was agreed on amicably by the whole crew and we all stuck by that. The storm didn’t really upset the harmony among the crew and the teamwork has made the bond between us even stronger.
You’re dockside at last, what kind of welcome did you receive?
Martin Gavériaux: “We’re all very happy to have made it safely into port, especially since we managed to fire up the starboard motor again a few miles from port. Though it kept going till we made dock the problem is yet to be fully resolved. Once dockside, we had a fantastic welcome from the soldiers in the port of Sans-Souci, under the supervision of commander Sr. Miguel Peña Acosta and from a delegation from the Swiss Embassy in the Dominican Republic. We were also delighted to hook back up with Marco Simeoni, President of the Foundation, as well as Franck David and Camille Rollin, members of the team. It was a warm evening and we were all able to have dinner together without rolling about. Quite a luxury!”
Finally, what’s next for the crew?
Martin Gavériaux: “The members of the foundation have meticulously prepared several major events aboard so everyone will quickly get down to business. We’re linking together a press conference, visits from students and institutions, as well as conferences like our usual on-board ‘Plastic waste to energy’ workshop and our participation in local conferences like Think Innovation. As for me, I’m going to look further into this engine problem, which I hope to resolve quickly.”