Published: Friday, 14 October 2016

After the first shocking findings – that a global clean-up of the oceans was now unrealistic – during the Race for Water Odyssey completed in 2015, French foundation Race for Water is mobilising again and launching a second expedition focused on a five-year programme (2017-2021).

Race For Water Launches Its Second Odyssey

(Photos: Race for Water - the Race for Water catamaran)

The new Odyssey will take place on board a unique vessel: the Race for Water catamaran (formerly Planet Solar), which is 100% self-sufficient, thanks to its ability to harness both solar energy and hydrogen technologies, developed and produced by the Foundation’s partner company, Swiss Hydrogen. Acting as an ambassador boat for the programme, Race for Water will serve as an educational platform, travelling laboratory and a working demonstration of Clean-tech innovations.

Founded in 2010, the Race for Water Foundation has developed a water conservation programme around its three founding pillars: Learn-Share-Act. 

Race For Water Launches Its Second Odyssey

During the first Race for Water Odyssey in 2015, the Foundation's teams focused on the ‘Learn’ and ‘Share’ pillars. That was because it was important to determine the actual extent of plastic pollution and the degree of awareness of the affected communities, in order to identify innovative and effective solutions to address this global issue. After travelling 32,000 nautical miles, visiting three oceans and five major waste concentration areas (called a “Gyre” or “Vortex”), making 16 stops, collecting and analysing 15,420 pieces of macro-waste and 196,250 micro-plastic particles, the conclusion was clear: a large-scale clean-up of the oceans is unrealistic.

Based on these first findings, the Foundation has set the course for a second expedition, which aims to continue the work which began in 2015 and develop the third ‘Act’ pillar of the programme.

“With this second Odyssey, the Race for Water Foundation is continuing its commitment to the fight against plastic pollution and stepping up its efforts,” says Race for Water Foundation President and Founder Marco Simeoni. “After the bitter conclusion from 2015, we hope to inject some positive momentum into the cause of the preservation water. Today, no one can deny that rational and cost-effective solutions can be put in place to conserve water, and that's the whole purpose of this new global expedition.” 

On board the Race for Water catamaran, the crew will make stopovers in areas of interest for scientific research where they can also take advantage of events of global significance. This will enable them to reach the widest possible audience in order to promote practical solutions for the collection of plastic waste on land and also to combat the pollution of our oceans. Over five years, they will visit three major areas of study as follows:

  • 2017-2018: Bermuda area and California -> America's Cup
  • 2018-2020: North Pacific area / South China Sea -> Tokyo Olympics
  • 2020-2021: Middle East area -> Expo Dubai

To showcase what is possible during this second world expedition, the Foundation has the first demonstrator vessel in the world using only clean and renewable energy for its fuel and for maintaining life on board. Indeed, thanks to the expertise of Swiss Hydrogen, the Race for Water catamaran will be equipped technology to extend its range using hydrogen technology as an energy source.

Race For Water Launches Its Second Odyssey 1

“As a partner of the Race for Water Foundation since July 2015, this new global expedition is a turning point in our collaboration on the conservation of water,” says Swiss Hydrogen SA President Alexander Closset. “By contributing our expertise in the area of hydrogen technologies and equipping the catamaran with a production unit, we are facing a new technological challenge in mobility and in the extreme conditions posed by the marine environment. Together, we look forward to showing the potential of these clean energy solutions and to supporting research and outreach projects hosted by the Race for Water Foundation.”

This completely clean supplementary energy, stored as compressed hydrogen gas, will be generated by using surplus energy produced by the solar generator. The hydrogen will be produced on board by electrolysis (splitting the H₂O water molecule) from seawater that can be collected and desalinated during navigation. This onboard system will enable the vessel to quadruple its range. Independent on land and at sea, the H₂O version of this solar vessel, is free from all forms of fossil fuel and has become a showcase of “Clean-tech” innovations and energy transition by offering pragmatic, realistic and modern solutions. 

With no impact on the environment, the Race for Water boat is an exceptional hosting platform. With two laboratories (Dry-Lab and Wet-Lab), 90m² of modular workspace with communication and transmission systems (wifi, satellite and optical), the catamaran offers optimum working conditions for researchers from around the world. As a true travelling laboratory, this platform will host research work by universities and international groups so that they can deepen their knowledge on the macro and micro plastics in the most relevant study areas (the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of California, Sargasso Sea, South China Sea, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea etc.). 

“I am delighted to contribute to a new scientific expedition in the service of the oceans,” says Race for Water Captain Gérard d'Aboville. “Setting out on this solar / hydrogen hybrid boat and getting it around safely is a nautical and technological challenge that I’m delighted to be taking part in. The enthusiasm that the catamaran generates at every stopover promises some fruitful exchanges between all those aware of the changes in the maritime world.”

Equally useful as an educational tool and communication medium, the Race for Water boat will transform into an exhibition zone, conference centre, reception venue, leading educational facility and even a TV studio, to raise large-scale awareness among the public and institutions about the need for the preservation of water. Taking advantage of the media already on site, Race for Water will stop in Bermuda for the America's Cup, in Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic Games and in Dubai for the World Expo.

This Odyssey in the service of the oceans, science and energy transition is scheduled to depart in April 2017.