Solar Boat Twente reveals ‘Echo’

| Rense Kuipers

Solar Boat Twente just revealed its new boat called ‘Echo’ during an online event, filmed at the Wilmink Theatre in the city centre. The student team wants to compete in two sustainability boat races this summer.

The name of the boat has a double meaning, explains team manager Tjeerdtje van Gastel. ‘We are the fifth generation of Solar Boat Twente. And Echo is the fifth letter of the NATO alphabet.’

The team chose to re-use the base of the ‘Twentsch Pegasus’, the boat last year’s team built. ‘It would be a waste to throw away a boat that was in just one competition. Besides, our team this year is a bit smaller than usual; we only have thirteen members, with seven of us working fulltime,’ says Van Gastel. ‘Partly because of the pandemic, the former team ended up with an unfinished product,’ adds team member Manuel Wackerle (responsible for software). ‘But it was a great foundation for us to build on, we are following their advice.’

‘Flying’ with hydrofoils

The team was able to make quite a few adjustments compared to the last boat, both in hardware and software. ‘The biggest changes are in the software department, the part you can’t see but is all the more important,’ says Van Gastel. ‘The boat also has an improved and more compact battery, two propellors – one made for endurance and one for speed – instead of one.’

The most important change is in the hydrofoils, that are there to lift the boat out of the water once it reaches a certain speed, thereby decreasing drag. ‘Previously, the hydrofoil was a solid wing. We’ve redesigned the system to two front foils, with flaps,’ explains Wackerle. This new system should help the solar boat ‘fly’ stably, something Solar Boat Twente has been trying to achieve since it started five years ago. ‘We can’t guarantee it yet, but we really hope our boat can fly this time. Our calculations look positive, but it comes down to testing.’

Races in Portugal and Monaco

That’s what the upcoming weeks are all about for the student team: testing, testing and more testing. At the beginning of June, the first real test awaits: a sustainability race in Portugal. ‘If the travel advice allows it by then,’ says Van Gastel. ‘The race is meant to promote clean water. That’s in line with what we stand for: to promote sustainability and inspire the maritime sector.’

The highlight of the year is supposed to take place a month later, at the Monaco Energy Boat Challenge. ‘Again, everything depends on the covid regulations,’ says Van Gastel. ‘Our plan B would be to have a demo together with Young Solar Boat Twente and to race against other Dutch teams. But we are very hopeful that the race will go on as planned this year.’


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