Awaiting the second departure: Édouard De Keyser and SolarWind 34 “with the energy of dreams”

©GlobalSoloChallenge

Marina Coruña is back in celebration: the second half of this September promises to be full of events and emotions. The departure of Édouard De Keyser, the only Belgian skipper entered in the Global Solo Challenge, is scheduled for Saturday, September 16th at 3:00 pm local time (1:00 pm UTC). He will be followed by two other French skippers: Louis Robein, on September 23rd, and Philippe Delamare on September 30th.

In order to put his project together, Édouard, truly put into practice his belief that “with the energy of dreams, mountains can be moved.” Aboard his Solaire 34 ‘SolarWind’, a prototype designed by French architect David Reard and built in wood and epoxy resin by Jacques Riguidel, he aims to circumnavigate the globe without using fossil fuels.

“For me, sailing embodies a dual virtue: freedom and respect for the planet. I embraced these values from my beginnings in boating and have been happy to meet, over the years, other sea enthusiasts who share this philosophy. One can travel differently, without leaving a carbon footprint and without resorting to motor-sailing, even if it means slowing down and accepting some discomfort. I want to prove that it’s possible to face even great challenges, like a round-the-world trip, while preserving the environment at the same time. Certainly, this type of navigation requires some sacrifice and extra attention, such as monitoring one’s water and energy consumption and adopting a more responsible approach.

During my journey, I will tell the story of my slow but nature-harmonious path. I admire initiatives like that of François Gabart, who, along with four other partners, presented the project of a sailing cargo ship with the aim of decarbonizing maritime transport. I support the idea that one must be ‘technologically smart’, also accepting a certain voluntary sobriety. After returning from the GSC, my dream is to engage in similar projects.”

Press conference at La Coruña City Council. From left to right: Edouad De Keyser, GSC skipper; Severine Dieudonne, journalist; Princess Esmeralda of Belgium; Inés Rey García, Mayor of La Coruña. – ©GlobalSoloChallenge

 

The GSC has been a great success in Belgium, where not only sailing enthusiasts but also many athletes and the media have shown interest in the event. “The idea is very original and, being part of this small world, has attracted a lot of attention. In Belgium, media coverage is very good. During my journey, I will do a live broadcast during the three-day ‘Into the Blue’ festival in Brussels,” Édouard stated.

Édouard De Keyser’s SolarWind project, aiming for zero carbon emissions, enjoys the support of several Belgian partners and has received the backing of Princess Esmeralda of Belgium. In June, the skipper received a very special recognition: the Princess and the GoodPlanet Belgium team awarded him the Blue Flag thus becoming godfather and ambassador for GoodPlanet Belgium. De Keyser emphasizes his commitment to sustainable development.

The Blue Flag certifies high standards in terms of quality and sustainability for beaches and ports. Boat owners also play a crucial role, and Édouard, by sailing without the use of fossil fuels, embodies this commitment to the protection of marine ecosystems.

Last November, while the start of the Route du Rhum was postponed due to adverse weather conditions, Édouard completed his 2,000-mile qualification for the GSC. During this challenging navigation, he dispelled any doubts about the nautical qualities and safety of his boat, SolarWind.

©GlobalSoloChallenge

 

“To complete my qualification, I started my journey in Faro, Portugal, heading towards the Azores and concluding the route in Trébeurden, in northern Brittany. On the way to the Bay of Biscay, I encountered the same adverse conditions, due to a strong depression further north, which had caused delays in the start of the Route du Rhum. With sustained winds between 30 and 35 knots, gusts exceeding 40, and a very rough sea, the boat was put to the test. Despite some side waves that made the boat heel until the mast touched the water, I always felt safe and in full control of the situation. If I needed confirmation that this boat was perfect for a round-the-world trip, the conditions I faced gave me all the assurance I needed.”

In shaping “the energy of his dreams,” Édouard is not alone. Many, sharing his values, have committed to the project, each bringing their own skills and distinctive qualities. “From the initial phase of my project, I had the support of a group of trusted friends. This community has grown as I made new encounters and other people joined us, driven by the passion to contribute in various ways – whether it’s minor maintenance on board, managing social media and marketing, or organizing events. As the project grew, we formed a team dedicated to communication and one to the more technical side. However, we have maintained a spirit of conviviality and warmth that permeates the entire group.”

©GlobalSoloChallenge

 

Here are the testimonies of Édouard’s partners and team, telling how they met Édouard, the personal and professional values they share with the skipper, and a short message to wish him a good journey!

 

Marc Vanveckhoven, LiFi Solutions

LiFi Solutions” is a non-profit organization based in Braine l’Alleud, specializing in advising schools and public authorities in Belgium and Luxembourg on the best technologies for wireless internet connection and lighting. The association favors ecological and non-invasive solutions, particularly promoting the use of LiFi to reduce harmful waves and recommending LED lighting to save energy. Their approach aligns with regulations like the “Abeille” law in France, which limits the use of WiFi and 4G in schools.

We were naturally fascinated by Édouard’s project, whose goal is to circumnavigate the globe without the use of fossil fuels, over a period of about six months. This vision aligns perfectly with our values, and we did not hesitate for a moment to contribute, equipping his beautiful boat with the latest innovative technologies in terms of lighting and internet connection. LiFi (internet via LED light) is a technology developed by Signify (Philips), our partner. In this way, Édouard will have access to the most advanced technologies in terms of power, availability, total security, and very low energy consumption, so far reserved only for aviation or certain military divisions. It’s the ‘ultimate’ to help Édouard realize his dream and proudly represent Belgium in this fantastic solo round-the-world trip!”

 

Pierre Heylemans, Plaisance Diffusion Brussels

“I’ve known Édouard for many years as a customer of our store. We support him as much as possible by offering him favorable prices, space in our warehouse to prepare his boat, and advice on various options. The values we share with him are tenacity, courage, and a desire for adventure, without a competitive spirit.

We wish him to realize his dream and to return with a heart full of memories. Enjoy every moment… and be careful.”

 

Markus Neumann, GoodPlanet Belgium

“We got to know Édouard De Keyser through a mutual contact, the Dulait family, who spent a year sailing across the oceans before landing in the Azores. They recounted their adventures in a book titled ‘Comme des bleus,’ published in June 2023. The proceeds from the book were donated to GoodPlanet Belgium. During the book presentation, Harold Dulait introduced us to Édouard and invited us to the launch of his boat, SolarWind. Just a week later, we found ourselves at the Brussels Royal Yacht-club to attend the ceremony. It was immediately clear to both Édouard and our director Jo Van Cauwenberge that the values of GoodPlanet Belgium and those championed by Édouard were perfectly aligned.

We chose to support Édouard’s adventure by providing funding and promoting his project on our social channels. In return, Édouard will highlight our association during his journey, displaying our logo on his boat and on the gennaker. Upon his return, expected in April or May 2024, Édouard and our coaches will visit Belgian schools. The goal is to encourage young people to pursue their ambitions, showing how a single individual can indeed make a difference.

GoodPlanet Belgium believes it’s possible to engage people of all ages in safeguarding the planet. We believe that everyone can contribute significantly to creating a sustainable future for the coming generations. That’s why our focus is on education and spreading information about sustainability and eco-friendly behaviors, all through an optimistic and constructive approach. We propose concrete solutions and implement them in collaboration with schools, businesses, and individuals. Édouard perfectly embodies this vision: he’s a man with a clear goal, determined and highly motivated. He works diligently to achieve his objectives, which align with the principles of sustainability and environmental conservation that we also promote.

Everyone emphasizes the urgency to change, to review our habits, to protect our planet, and to reduce consumption. These are things we’ve known for a long time and could have already implemented. But mere reflections and good intentions are not enough and only end up feeding a mountain of reports and documents. In the end, only those who take concrete action can truly make a difference and have a real impact on our future.

And that’s precisely what you’re doing, Édouard, with great courage and consistency. On behalf of the entire GoodPlanet Belgium team, we wish you courage, time, trust, perseverance, good health, and fair winds. But above all, we hope you can live a truly unique experience. With all our affection!”

 

Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse Foundation

“I never thought that the projection of Solar Impulse in Brussels could inspire so many people to undertake similar initiatives. When I received a call from Édouard De Keyser, who told me about his project to participate in the Global Solo Challenge with a boat powered exclusively by renewable energies, I was deeply impressed. I didn’t hesitate for a moment to give my consent when he asked me to be his patron for this adventure.

We are both pioneers and explorers. When you face a challenge that seems impossible, the people who join you are pioneers enthusiastic about the challenge; they are competent individuals who bring all their talents and potential, saying: ‘We will make it.’

Édouard, you are about to set sail from La Coruña, and I sincerely hope you can realize your dream, which perfectly aligns with the event’s motto! Remember that your endeavor will not only be an exciting adventure but will also serve to inspire the pioneering spirit that is so necessary in the field of renewable energies and sustainable development. I wish you a journey full of emotions and smooth sailing!”

©GlobalSoloChallenge

 

Jean-Michel Waroquier, Sail Agency (SailProof)

“I had the pleasure of meeting Édouard during a film festival dedicated to the sea, thanks to the intercession of Denis Van Weyenbergh, a Belgian skipper who is preparing for the upcoming Vendée Globe. To support Édouard in his navigation, we provided him with two SailProof tablets: one to use as the main device and the other as a backup. We also made available various accessories for optimal energy management, such as chargers, batteries, and power banks. To complete his technological arsenal, I introduced him to the English company Digital Yacht, with the aim of further enhancing his electronic equipment, including the AIS and the multiplexer.

My decision to support the SolarWind project is primarily motivated by my belief that the GSC is an extraordinary human adventure, worthy of admiration and support. Moreover, both Édouard and I are Belgians, and for us, exploring beyond national borders is a way to also overcome our personal limits. Many people in our country feel an irresistible call of the sea that runs in our veins and pushes us to discover how the rest of the world lives. Lastly, I am particularly sensitive to the emphasis that SolarWind places on energy sustainability. I am a father of three children, and the issue of the future of our planet deeply concerns me.”

 

Pierre Yves Martens, Team Logistics and Technical

“I met Édouard in 1991, during an expedition to Greenland. We were there with the aim of setting a new northern latitude record, sailing along the northeast coast of Greenland. I’m proud to say that we managed to improve the record by a few degrees! From that moment on, our friendship blossomed, fueled by a shared passion for sailing and adventure.

In my capacity as the publisher and journalist of the Belgian nautical magazine Yachting-Sud, it immediately seemed natural to support Édouard’s exceptional project, ‘SolarWind’. I assisted Édouard in choosing the right boat and in identifying an exceptional patron like Bertrand Piccard, who already supports the annual ‘Into the Blue’ festival that we organize (www.intotheblue.be).

The values I share with Édouard include unwavering determination, a genuine commitment to environmental protection, the ambition to complete a round-the-world trip without the use of fossil fuels, and the desire to be the first Belgian to complete a round-the-world sailing trip under these conditions. He deserves all our applause!

Ed, stay on course, you’ll make it. Never give up and believe in your lucky star! You can count on the support of your many friends who will accompany you to the starting line in A Coruña.”

 

Jean-Claude Honnay, Team Communication

“In 2022, Édouard De Keyser approached the Brussels Royal Yacht Club (BRYC) with the intent of becoming a member. His captivating story and the bold project of circumnavigating the globe aboard SolarWind, a vessel powered by renewable energies, immediately caught attention and received approval from the club’s most visionary members who were fortunate to learn about this exciting initiative.

As the Vice Commodore responsible for communication at BRYC, I personally backed this initiative that aligns perfectly with the club’s values. I then undertook the necessary procedures to ensure Édouard’s application was favorably reviewed by the selection committee.

At BRYC, our main mission is to promote nautical sports and support sailors. Consequently, associating with Édouard’s SolarWind project seemed a natural choice and in perfect harmony with our objectives. We worked closely with Édouard to promote SolarWind and achieve his goals under the best conditions. This materialized thanks to the active support of our directors and the use of our facilities for the launch of SolarWind. The event was a great success and saw the participation of personalities like Bertrand Piccard, the godfather of SolarWind, Minister Gilkinet, and numerous other business leaders. In June, we had the honor of welcoming Princess Esmeralda of Belgium to BRYC on the occasion of Edouard’s appointment as ambassador of GoodPlanet Belgium and the Blue Flag.

This fruitful collaboration directly involved me in the SolarWind communication team, a group composed of four other experts in their respective fields, all driven by the same passion to see this unique project come to life. Each of us brings our specialized skills and enthusiasm to contribute to SolarWind’s success.

We tackle every obstacle that arises and seize every opportunity to progress in our journey. We unconditionally support Édouard De Keyser and his yacht SolarWind, not only to ensure an optimal start but also to refine and enhance his performance and visibility through effective communication work and sponsor research. With the same spirit as Bertrand Piccard’s Solar Impulse initiative, we are determined to make this project a genuine success and lead SolarWind and Édouard De Keyser to their deserved triumph.”

“May the winds push you forcefully across the oceans of the Global Solo Challenge. May you have the determination and courage to sail through both storms and calms, knowing that we are all by your side, admiring your passion and offering our support in this incredible adventure. Fair winds and may every day of this race carry the mark of success.”

©GlobalSoloChallenge

 

Nathalie Carton, Communication Team

“I met Édouard during a regatta about 30 years ago: the 24-hour sailing race in Nieuport. I had never set foot on a sailboat before then. It was love at first sight for the sea and sailing! I sailed with Édouard on several cruises with friends in Brittany or the Channel Islands. I met his younger brother Benjamin, who became my partner and the father of my children. Édouard became not only a friend but also a family member: my brother-in-law. We crossed the Atlantic as a family, with five of us (Édouard, his wife Evelyne, JB, his wife’s younger brother, Benjamin, his brother and my former partner, and me). It was December 1999, we arrived after 21 days of Atlantic crossing and celebrated the New Year and the new millennium in Saint Barth.

I have always admired Édouard for the strength with which he realizes his projects: whether it’s his business ventures, the adoption of his children, or his sailing trips, both in the Atlantic and the Pacific. He is a resourceful person, always able to get back on his feet, and often surprises us. He has incredible determination and strength of character. He might seem like a mere dreamer… but no, he realizes his dreams and is a great entrepreneur, a skilled technician, and an extraordinary navigator!

I contribute a bit to the SolarWind project, supporting Édouard, seeking sponsors, communicating, helping at some events… I wish I could do even more! We share a love for the sea and our planet, which we must protect! SolarWind’s participation in the GSC is a beautiful example of reducing fossil energies.

I can only say ‘Bravo Édouard’! We wish you ‘fair winds’!”

 

Vincent Gadé, Communication Team

“I met Édouard De Keyser during his visit to Philippe Leclerc from the company Adalta, while I was training as a web developer.

When Édouard spoke about the Global Solo Challenge and his SolarWind project, I wanted to accompany him from land, supporting him in communication and on the website. https://www.solarwind.brussels/

It’s a real pleasure and a great honor to be able to contribute in this way to Édouard’s adventure, participating in his dream of competing in the Global Solo Challenge and facing this imposing challenge without the use of fossil energies on board. It’s also exciting to discover the values we share and the inspiring energies that bind us, following his journey, the evolution of the project, the use of sustainable technologies, and the story of the boat. https://www.solarwind.brussels/le-bateau/

May the energy of dreams carry SolarWind around the globe and into safe harbor!”

 

Frédéric Chomé, Project Developer

“I’ve known Édouard for over thirty years. We met at the sailing club of the Free University of Brussels shortly after he had completed the Mini Transat. It was immediately clear that we shared the same passion for sailing, the sea, and environmental protection. For Édouard, the Global Solo Challenge represents a kind of culmination of a dream, a desire he has always had to be part of projects that might seem a bit crazy or disproportionate, especially in a country like Belgium, where sailing is not exactly the national sport!

I support SolarWind in various ways: I support the skipper in the development of the project, offer moral support when the strength to continue seems to fade, review and structure communication, establish contacts with potential partners, and help in financing the project. However, due to my commitments, I cannot concretely contribute to the preparation of the boat, which I regret a bit.

On the eve of the great departure, I am convinced that this adventure will offer Édouard the opportunity not only to reconnect with his favorite element, the Ocean, but also to embark on an extraordinary inner journey.

It’s the beginning of your long journey, Édouard, enjoy it to the fullest!”

 

Vincent Gadé, Communication Team

“I met Édouard De Keyser during his visit to Philippe Leclerc from the company Adalta, while I was training as a web developer.

When Édouard spoke about the Global Solo Challenge and his SolarWind project, I wanted to accompany him from land, supporting him in communication and on the website. https://www.solarwind.brussels/

It’s a real pleasure and a great honor to be able to contribute in this way to Édouard’s adventure, participating in his dream of competing in the Global Solo Challenge and facing this imposing challenge without the use of fossil energies on board. It’s also exciting to discover the values we share and the inspiring energies that bind us, following his journey, the evolution of the project, the use of sustainable technologies, and the story of the boat. https://www.solarwind.brussels/le-bateau/

May the energy of dreams carry SolarWind around the globe and into safe harbor!”

 

Frédéric Chomé, Project Developer

“I’ve known Édouard for over thirty years. We met at the sailing club of the Free University of Brussels shortly after he had completed the Mini Transat. It was immediately clear that we shared the same passion for sailing, the sea, and environmental protection. For Édouard, the Global Solo Challenge represents a kind of culmination of a dream, a desire he has always had to be part of projects that might seem a bit crazy or disproportionate, especially in a country like Belgium, where sailing is not exactly the national sport!

I support SolarWind in various ways: I support the skipper in the development of the project, offer moral support when the strength to continue seems to fade, review and structure communication, establish contacts with potential partners, and help in financing the project. However, due to my commitments, I cannot concretely contribute to the preparation of the boat, which I regret a bit.

On the eve of the great departure, I am convinced that this adventure will offer Édouard the opportunity not only to reconnect with his favorite element, the Ocean, but also to embark on an extraordinary inner journey.

It’s the beginning of your long journey, Édouard, enjoy it to the fullest!”

 

Michael Delatte, Meteorology & Tactics

“I met Édouard almost fifteen years ago, or perhaps even longer, through mutual friends in the sailing world. We sailed together and he taught me a lot thanks to his experience. Since then, we’ve also collaborated on some business ventures, but in the end, we always find ourselves back on the water!

I contribute in numerous administrative and accounting aspects, and we frequently exchange ideas on decisions to be made for this project. Whenever I can and based on my availability, I also assist on the practical side. During Édouard’s circumnavigation, I will be his onshore reference for weather forecasts and route planning. We share values like eco-responsibility, respect, and humility!

Fair winds, Édouard!”

 

Dominique Hénin, Physical Trainer

“Édouard De Keyser came for a stress test in the Sports Medicine department of the hospital where I work as the head of physical preparation. I met him during his test and we discussed his fascinating project.

I like to make the comparison with a Formula 1 car entering the pits when I talk about a high-level athlete or sportsman. When you see how many people work frantically around the car while it’s in the pits… well, I consider myself a member of that team. Everyone has a role, everyone must do their part so that the driver can perform at his best. This is my role, just like all the people, friends, and volunteers who revolve around Édouard.

The cause championed by De Keyser is essential awareness, indispensable for the future of our planet. It’s therefore natural for me to participate in one way or another in this beautiful project. ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,’ Gandhi said. Victor Hugo noted, ‘It’s sad to think that nature speaks and mankind doesn’t listen.’ Édouard De Keyser, on the other hand, has decided to follow what Margaret Mead recommended in her life: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’

Thank you, Édouard, for believing and acting in this direction.”

 

For those wishing to support Édouard’s project: https://www.solarwind.brussels/produit/don-solarwind-pour-le-grand-depart/

 

To follow Édouard’s journey and other participants in the Global Solo Challenge: https://globalsolochallenge.com/tracking/; and for skipper updates on the event blog: https://globalsolochallenge.com/blogs/

 

Fair winds, Édouard! We look forward to seeing many of you on September 16th to bid farewell to SolarWind at Marina Coruña!

 

Solaire 34 ‘SolarWind’ ©Edouard De Keyser