‘Tallest people in the back!’ somebody shouts, as the team carefully maneuvers ‘Blue Manta’ towards the shimmering water. All hands on deck, the students carry their brand-new boat to the canal. ‘It’s a bit windy today, but otherwise this is the perfect spot to test,’ says Gankema. ‘We know the water is deep enough so it’s safe.’
With the boat securely afloat, one of the boat’s pilots Daniëlle Kruijver kicks off her shoes and climbs into the small cabin. Today her focus will be on testing the stability and speed, and most of all the steering. ‘We need to know how the boat moves and turns, that it’s stable and reliable,’ explains the team manager Stan van der Wel. ‘Last week we put the boat in the water for the first time and discovered there was some leakage. We fixed it, but when we tried again we had to start the motor manually which isn’t very handy.’
No such problems today, though. Kruijver starts the motor within seconds. She waits for a signal from the technical manager, he nods and Blue Manta sails into the sunset. Almost literally. The boat moves quickly and disappears from sight within seconds. ‘We hate it when we can’t see her anymore,’ says Gankema with a smile. ‘But we are in touch with her the whole time, of course.’
Kruijver takes the boat for a few spins, going up and down the canal and testing various maneuvers to make sure the boat is ready for the upcoming races, including slaloms. Then she carefully docks and hands the ‘wheel’ over to a second pilot Margriet Been, who will continue the test. ‘It’s going really great,’ says the team manager. ‘We haven’t had any problems today. It also helped us to test the simple things – how to get the boat into the water, how the pilot should climb in and so on. It might sound basic, but it is very important.’
Blue Manta will soon be put into several other tests on the Twentekanaal. The team wants to make sure that they are ready for the Solar Sport One competition this summer, starting at the Dutch championship on the 1st of June in Akkrum and leading up to the World Championship held in July in Monaco.