How was the idea of the Balaton Solar Boat Challenge born?
The engineering students of the University of Pannonia have been successfully representing the university in numerous competitions for years. So far, the team has focused on land-based challenges, but in 2015, the idea of building a solar-powered boat was suggested. The university's leaders took the idea further and did not stop at supporting the implementation of the shipbuilding, but also looked to international waters and set their sights on participating in and even organising solar boat competitions. This is how the decision was made for the engineering students of the University of Pannonia to build the solar boat SuntaMaria, which will compete in international competitions. This year, for the first time in Hungary, the CoreComm Balaton Solar Boat Challenge solar boat race will be held, inspired by the proximity of Lake Balaton and the competitive spirit, and supported by the Municipality of Balatonalmádi, the VEB2023 EKF programme and the Hungarian Sailing Federation.
What are the main objectives of this initiative?
Sustainability is one of the most important flagships of the University of Pannon, which fits perfectly into the VEB 2023 EKF's slogan. An important goal of the collaboration is to educate the future generation on sustainability, to demonstrate a responsible approach to the environment and the implementation of immediate action, and to prove that by bringing together different disciplines, much greater impact can be achieved in all areas. The main objective is to bring together the responsible institutions of the region to organise an innovative and sustainable international Solar Boat Race, the first of its kind in Hungary, on Lake Balaton, which will put the region in a prominent position on the international stage and define its innovative attractiveness for future generations.
One of the dormitories of the University of Pannonia, the Nereus Hotel, is located in Balatonalmádi, so it was natural to approach the Municipality of Balatonalmádi with the idea of hosting the event. No other university in the country is as close to the lake as the University of Pannonia, so as a university in the region, the choice of location was not out of the question. The Municipality of Balatonalmádi will host the accompanying events on land in the promenade on the Szent Erzsébet Liget, offering a wide range of activities for professional participants (solar panel manufacturing, sustainability, boating), families and holidaymakers, as well as international university teams. The CoreComm Balaton Solar Boat Challenge international solar boat race is completely free of charge.
How is the competition structured and what were the entry requirements?
The most prestigious competition in Europe is based in Monaco, followed by competitions in the Netherlands, Germany and Portugal. The structure and schedule of the Hungarian race is largely the same as the other foreign races, and we can probably expect a surprise number here too. There are basically four races: a six-lap race (where the longest distance has to be covered in 3 hours), a slalom race, a speed race and a championship race. The latter is a spectacular, combined, straight knockout race. Competitors from any country can enter the race, most of them from the Netherlands, Poland and Germany this year, but of course two Hungarian teams will also be representing Hungary.
You mentioned the accompanying programmes. What interesting things can people who visit Balatonalmádi this weekend expect to see?
We heartily recommend the accompanying programmes to everyone, as holidaymakers will be tempted by the giant board game in the Unilever tent, where the whole family can of course taste delicious ice creams. Hybridcycle has organised a series of sustainable activities, from making party decorations from recycled rubber mats to ceramic painting. The Kupakabana small boat will be outside, so everyone is encouraged to bring as many caps as they can! The University of Pannonia will entertain guests interested in sustainability with an educational adventure tour and will bring its water purification equipment used in its research, allowing participants to experience a range of interesting facts in an interactive way. The youngest children can play Kahoot. An eye-catching installation in the university tent will be created from the successful pre-school and primary school drawing competition held in the spring. The VEB2023 ECoC programme will be set up with the Kékszalag x HelloVEB exhibition, while the VEB2023 merch products and quizzes will be available for guests who are still spending the last days of summer on the shores of Lake Balaton.