We went to Monaco as a student team with an ambitious dream. After a rollercoaster of disasters and victories we returned as the world Offshore Solar Boat race champion.
Last week we returned from Monaco, where we won the world championships for Offshore Solar Boats. I, and most of the team, haven’t fully processed everything that has happened. The entire experience was more than can be captured here as the team went through ups and downs again and again. It was extremely tough, physically and mentally, to say the least.
So let’s take a step back. What happened in Monaco? There were two races on the open sea. In the first race, which was 30 km, we finished in third place. This was the first time we had sailed on open sea, and the first time we had sailed such a long distance. An enormous achievement for us and our team. Coming third also meant that we had a real shot at winning a place in the overall competition. The second race was over 60 km, the distance for which we had designed our boat.
But very quickly after the first race, as we were recharging our battery, disaster struck. Our solar panels started to overheat and we could not find the cause. We quickly came to the conclusion that it would be unsafe to go back to open sea with solar panels. So we gathered the entire team and made an incredibly difficult decision. So that we could take part in the second race, we would strip our boat of the very thing that gave it its identity. We would remove the solar panels and sail the long distance second race on just the battery. We fully realised that this would greatly decrease our chances.
The second race took over five hours. As time passed it became increasingly evident that we were in the lead. And as our boat neared the finish line it became evident that, given the performance of the other boats, we would come first in the overall competition! The moment this was confirmed was very emotional for every single team member. We had a dream that was said to be impossible. We had had setback after setback, and on the day before the big race it seemed like it simply wasn’t meant to be. But the team showed resilience, the team showed courage and this team became the world champion!
Now, after a few days of much needed rest, we are back at our office in the Dream Hall. And our story is not yet over as, at the end of July, we will make an attempt to set a world record by being the fastest solar boat to cross the English Channel. This iconic waterway is the busiest on earth and has extremely treacherous weather conditions. We will cross this channel to show the world what a student team can achieve on the open seas using sustainable energy!
So even though the campus is mostly empty, we have a new goal to work towards. Ahead of us lie two weeks of preparations, testing, hard work and hoping for calm weather.
For questions/comments, email me at:Redmer.Aarnink@solarboatteam.nl
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