Key to our economy and the planet’s lungs, the ocean covers 70% of the Earth and produces 50% of its oxygen. Facts that make us realise the urgent need to protect it. All year round, Monaco Energy Boat Challenge contestants and the yachting industry work together to re-design the face of the industry to help achieve this. It is by exploiting all avenues of maritime innovation that a new chapter will be written in the luxury yacht sector.

Under the aegis of the collective ‘Monaco, Capital of Advanced Yachting’ umbrella, this event which launched in 2014 gathers the industry and young engineers in partnership with the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, with support from Credit Suisse, BMW and SBM Offshore, as well as the Ferretti, MB92 and Oceanco shipyards.

“Innovation is a fundamental challenge for our era in yachting. Propulsion, renewable energy, eco-construction and eco-design are among the approaches that will enable our sector to respond to environmental concerns. We are delighted to see such enthusiasm for this event with 35 teams in the competition and the involvement of big names in the yachting industry,” says YCM General Secretary Bernard d’Alessandri.

21 nations in action

Nearly 40 teams are set to take part in an event which combines numerous on-water challenges (sea trials, speed records, endurance and manoeuvrability trials) to test and demonstrate new technology’s potential with technical discussions in open source (a conference, daily Tech Talks, a round table) to share knowledge on progress in propulsion. An exhibitors’ village open to the public hosts’ startups and new projects in the innovation and new energy fields in yachting. In total, a record 50+ eco-boats will be showing what they can do in the YCM Marina, powered by alternative energy sources!

Among 21 nations expected are the Indians from Kumaraguru College of Technology who’ve just arrived in Monaco. It’s the first time an Indian team has competed in an international motorboating event. Also competing are Canadians from the Montréal Polytechnic and students from Peru’s National University of Engineering. Alongside the newcomers, some are regulars like Monaco’s SBM Offshore team participating for the fourth consecutive time.

Exhibitors the innovation ambassadors

Once again there are three categories in competition, Energy Class, Open Sea Class and Solar Class. The field will be completed by some 30 exhibitors in the Village area open to the public (free entry), the ideal opportunity to see the latest innovations and projects for sustainable propulsion in the maritime sector. Among regulars is FinX which is developing patented biomimetic and electric propulsion technology that replaces propellors with an undulating membrane inspired by fish. E’dyn, Amer Yachts, Gerrisboats and Aquon are also back this year, as are the Monaco-based Lanéva Boats all having competed in the Open Sea Class in 2021. “We are developing 100% electric boats,” explains François Richard, CEO of Lanéva Boats. “We came second last year and met so many players in the market. This year we hope to be greeted with the same enthusiasm when we present our new boat”.

A confluence of objectives

A well-kept secret during the contests, results and progress are shared by contestants during daily Tech Talks in open source. These exchanges feed into the innovation strategies of all those involved in this meeting, be they student engineers or key players in the industry to progress the technologies.

Now recognised as a fantastic communications platform, the event fosters synergies and debate, notably during the conference on Thursday 7th July on the theme Energy Transition in Yachting: Opportunities & Limits. Some 20 experts are lined up to talk about the latest R&D on alternative energy sources, carbon-free onboard energy production and yachting as a field of experimentation (registration required). Explorer Mike Horn concludes the programme. On Friday 8th July, following on from the first meeting in 2019, Monaco’s Energy Transition Mission, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and Yacht Club de Monaco are behind the 3rd Monaco Hydrogen Working Group Round Table entitled ‘Unlocking hydrogen barriers in the maritime sector: port regulations and economic viability of projects’ (by invitation).

Explosion of new technology

At the same time, a host of new technologies will be in action along the quays and at the Yacht Club like the flexible solar fabric, Solar Cloth. “It involves covering two structures of around 6.2m by 3.3m with flexible photovoltaic panels,” explains sales manager William Borderie. “Each structure is fitted with two ensembles that are easy to fold and move. One will be linked to the grid, the second to a portable battery. This first installation is to demonstrate what’s new in photovoltaics and inspire new generations”. They also want to encourage boats to use photovoltaic panels when at anchor rather than switching on a generator to avoid noise, air pollution and vibration. Nothing is lost thanks to a partnership with gas and electricity company SMEG to install floating solar pontoons that will feed the electricity produced back into YCM’s grid.

Another innovation, for the second year, is a pontoon producing green hydrogen from renewable sources, installed by SBM Offshore in the YCM Marina, and which this year also has floating photovoltaic panels. Hydrogen produced will be used by the SBM E-Racing Team in the Energy Class to refuel their boat. Still on hydrogen, EODev will demonstrate the 100kVA electro-hydrogen zero-emission GEH2 generator.

 In-person and virtual interaction

As part of the collective ‘Monaco, Capital of Advanced Yachting’ umbrella to position the Principality as a centre of excellence in this industry, an informal Job Forum has been run since 2019 on the Thursday to connect industry professionals looking for new engineering talent. It is proving once and for all how the yachting industry generates jobs. Since the first year, around 20 young people have either had an internship or employment at companies in the sector. Of note, and new this year is the first Monaco Energy Boat Challenge’s alternative energy-focused metaverse where people can chat and exchange experiences.