Teamwork on the water

Learning from an award-winning sailing team

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From the Yacht Club de Monaco
From the Yacht Club de Monaco

Monaco, the scene of super yachts, F1 and the famous Monte Carlo Casino departed from the usual crowd in early July and hosted a unique sustainable yachting competition. With over 200 enthusiastic, university aged students descending on Monaco, the Yacht Club de Monaco, in conjunction with the l’Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM), the International Powerboating Federation and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation’s Solar & Energy Boat Challenge brought 34 international teams to compete along the waters of Monaco. 

This four day competition raced boats within 3 classes: Solar, Monaco Energy and Offshore.  For the Solar class, teams use panels to run the engine. For the Monaco Energy class, students are given the same hull design work with industry partners on a propulsion system using the clean energy of their choice (i.e. Hydrogen). The Offshore class tests green energy propelled boats that are being marketed or are in development for sale. These Offshore boats race from Monaco to Ventimiglia, Italy to race for endurance. 

One of the most interesting teams of the challenge, was the Spirit award winner (an award given to the team with the best mindset during the competition), Hydros Team Universitas Indonesia. The only Asian competitors in the race, the Hydros team had 13 team members in attendance, three of which were female engineers. 

This ambitious team have won their three previous competitions, and this was the first time they were competing in the Monaco Energy Class. Although the Hydros team encountered many issues that set them back in the race; the team’s biggest win was the gain of their own invaluable lessons of how high functioning teams can work.

1) Quick Mitigation

During preparation for the Slalom race, the Hydros team discovered that there was an issue with the propeller. Although, they had tested the steering system in the artificial lakes in the Indonesia, it was not sufficient for the strong Monaco waters and had to rebuild it during the course of the week. 

Quick mitigation in a team works well when there is communication of knowledge and the adequate skill to address the problem. For example, which team members excel at solving smaller issues, like a burnt out bulb versus which team members that are able to solve larger overarching process or systems level issues, like a propeller. Not everyone solves problems using the same technique and it takes a skilled team to divert to expertise, especially when there is a time constraint involved. 

2) Seek Assistance

Acknowledging skill sets and scope is one thing, yet alleviating issues beyond ones control is another. The Hydros team started their boat design in December 2018, with the procurement of parts completed in March 2019. The cockpit was made in Indonesia, the battery management system (BMS) was purchased from China and the remaining parts were shipped to Monaco in the excess of 13 thousand Euros. Unfortunately, the first time the entire boat was tested was shortly before the competition in the waters of Monaco. 

During the daily Tech Talk portion of the challenge, each team introduced their design and technical overview of their boat. The Hydros team was encouraged to announce that they were experiencing a short-circuit on their battery management system calling upon help from the greater community. HEIG-VD-1, a team from Switzerland lent a new system to the Hydros team, although ultimately it was not compatible due to the incompatibility between the Asian and European systems. 

The Hydros team could have easily accepted the defeat of their battery, but their dedication and teamwork resulted in them realizing they needed support and sought the aid of strangers. It also takes equally great teamwork to support strangers as well and not get wrapped up in a competitive nature.  

3) Celebrate the Work and Sustainment

Regardless of the final outcome, Hydros Team Universitas Indonesiashould celebrate their hardwork at the Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge. The team managed to travel several thousand kilometers from Indonesia, to a city that could not be more culturally different than Jakarta. Constructing a boat in pieces and shipping it across the world has its own logistic challenges, and they managed to construct everything for the competition in time. 

Now that the race is over, all the teams are armed with their lessons from this competition and are looking forward to the future.  New races and the sustainment of the team are now on their mind. A few valuable members from the Hydros team are graduating and their roles will need to be replaced with new students ready to learn the ropes from their mentors.

The Hydros team faced many challenges in Monaco as part of a Solar & Energy Boat Challenge. Like the high functioning team that they are, their skills of problem solving, assessment, and perseverance awarded them the Spirit Award for the best mind-set in the competition. Based on this, I am hopeful that the Hydros team will continue to race and Monaco will see them again next year.

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