What started as an idea being tweeted mid-November 2010, developed in an organisation powered by passionate and experienced professionals to organise 80 Day Race: a race around the world in which participants pushes the technological boundaries to complete 40,000 kilometres sustainably. No combustion engines are allowed to circumnavigate the globe while racing between eight iconic cities starting in 2016.
Officially founded on 11-11-11, 80 Day Race now celebrates its third anniversary. To celebrate this, co-founder Frank Manders answered the 15 most frequently asked questions.
How did you come up with the idea of organising this event?
“Three years ago Jenny and I watched the Jacky Chan movie ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, a modern day version the Jules Verne classic. We already organised sustainable rallies and a race around the world in 80 days would take it to the next level. The next day we looked back on the idea and we thought we should take that forward to actually do something with it rather than leaving it on the table. We decided it would be the best if we would make it into a competition. We developed the basic idea into a business plan and participated in the largest business plan contest in the Netherlands hosted by McKinsey and the Ministry of Economic Affairs. With over 200 entries we entered the top twenty with our three pager business plan. That was the feedback we needed and from that point we started on further developing the concept of 80 Day Race.”
Have you organised events before?
“We already organised sustainable rallies for charity. The most successful was Rotterdam to Rome on used cooking oil. We organised it for four years and we raised over 100,000 Euro for charity. But we found that it didn’t have the impact we had in mind. We wanted to reach a bigger audience and convince more people of the opportunities that new and sustainable technology brings. In comparison with five years ago, the time is right to organise the 80 Day Race event because of new technologies that enables participants to succeed in this challenge.”
Organising a world wide event sounds ambitious. Where do you start?
“An event like 80 Day Race can’t be organised without proper support and key partners. The organisation is focussed on identifying and connecting the correct partners to setup and develop the race. For example you have to think about media, logistics, politics, planning, teams and technology. Everything needs to come together as one big jigsaw puzzle. One of our pillars is having a strong list of ambassadors. They are all key players in their particular fields and are well respected by the community. They help to voice the excitement of 80 Day Race.”
Who’s behind 80 Day Race?
“The core team members of the 80 Day Race include Jenny Berlo, Rob Boerekamps and me. We each have a different role in the team. I am the general director and do most of the external communication, Jenny facilitates the day-to-day management of the organisation and Rob is mainly responsible for the marketing and sales activities. We are accompanied by a group of experts in communications, media and sales.”
Is it really possible to race around the world sustainably in 80 days?
“Sustainable technology has developed rapidly over the last years. And we are now at the tipping point where this challenge can be realised. There are vehicles and charging facilities available for both fuel cell as well as battery electric and that allows us to drive more than 500 kilometres per day. It is still a challenge to go around the world with any vehicle in 80 days because it is the adventure of crossing the globe through dozens of countries, being exposed to all those different cultures, people and climates. It’s a challenge. But now for the first time new technology allows us to do it fully sustainable rather than with a combustion engine. If you take 40,000 kilometres and divide it by 80: that’s 500 kilometres per day. As Phileas Fogg in the book of Jules Verne said: ‘it is possible in theory because I calculated it’.”
How do people respond when you are explaining the 80 Day Race concept?
“Any new concept that is introduced will receive a fair share of scepticism. The same goes for 80 Day Race. But that’s the whole premise of the book. There was one person who said it can be done and there were hundreds betting against him that it couldn’t be done. So it seems only fitting to the book that 80 Day Race receives some scepticism as well. However, there are plenty of people that actually do get very excited about the challenge and do believe that it can be done. So far we have gathered TV producers, educational institutes, technology companies and entrepreneurs; actually all kind of people and organisations that embrace the idea of the challenge. At the time of Charles Lindbergh, the first man who has crossed the Atlantic Ocean non-stop by plane, everyone said it couldn’t be done. Until he achieved it in 1927. You need that groundbreaking pioneering attitude to be able to showcase to the world what is possible. If you hold on to that scepticism, we will not innovate as quickly as we need to.”
Can we compare 80 Day Race with something?
“80 Day Race is a challenge and adventure that goes back to almost the romantic pioneering and exploring times of the Victorian age. Currently there are almost no white spots left on the globe. Every single place has been identified, explored and visited by people. However, that everything is known doesn’t mean that there are no challenges left. It is just that you have to look to different adventures and we can bring back that pioneering spirit by doing something that seems far beyond reach for a lot of people. But it is actually an adventure that everyone could embark on. So in that sense it goes back to the legacy of the explorers of all the previous ages.”
What vehicles may be entered in the race?
“80 Day Race wants to accelerate innovation in sustainable technology. Therefore we’ve excluded the use of combustion engines which are developed over 140 years. We want to accelerate technologies like battery electric vehicles, fuel cells and solar power. That also means that we are open to any type of vehicle participating in the race. Either motorcycles, tricycles, conventional type cars, lightweight vehicles, airships or boats, actually anything goes. I hope there are clever engineers out there that can dream up new vehicles that will astonish the world.”
A great part of the race will go over land, but how do teams cross the oceans?
“The winning strategy for crossing the Pacific and Atlantic oceans is currently a high speed sailboat. For example an Americas Cup or a Volvo Ocean Race boat. Sadly these ships are very costly and therefore we have decided that for the first edition of 80 Day Race we will facilitate these ocean crossings. We hope that in the second or third edition technology has developed in such a way that teams can cross the oceans while using their owns sustainable vehicles.”
A normal race takes up to two hours, but how do you keep track of a competition that lasts for 80 days?
“The purpose of 80 Day Race is to inspire people. And to inspire people, you should be able to give them a view in the development of the race and its teams. In order to achieve that, a director of photography will accompany each team. These cameramen will transmit their footage to the media centre that will distribute and broadcast daily through major communication channels like internet and television. In addition, 80 Day Race will produce in depth TV series of the race and its preparations.”
The first team has been announced recently. Why did they choose to participate and what type of vehicle are they entering?
“The team’s board has experience with sustainable technology in events like the Shell Eco-marathon and World Solar Challenge. STORM Eindhoven is mainly made up of young engineers that have no legacy in motorsport or adventure with fossil fuels. They see great opportunities in sustainable mobility and want to contribute to the development of interesting and desirable vehicles. They have chosen to develop their own innovative motorcycle.”
What are the biggest challenges for teams?
“Anyone who has travelled across borders in different parts of the world knows that there are great challenges in cross country travel. Therefore it’s not just a race with pure speed. It’s more like an endurance race where planning and logistics are important. And new technology hasn’t been tested in this way. To travel 500 kilometres per day doesn’t sound like much as you could easily do that in a country with a well developed infrastructure. However, as soon as you go off the beaten track, optimal planning is required to make sure that you have enough energy in your vehicle.”
The race counts eight legs, starting and finishing in major cities around the world. What happens during these events?
“For people getting really involved in 80 Day Race, it is great that you can follow everything on TV and on the internet. However it really comes to life when you, as a visitor, have the opportunity to come close to the actual adventurers. In each of the host cities we’ll organise events to achieve that. The teams will race on a closed city circuit on Saturday and it will also feature support races of Greenpower Trust, a school series for young engineers. This spectacle for the public is free to attend. Prior to that on Friday, policy makers and professionals will be shown what the current state of technology allows people to do. This means a trade show and a conference for the professionals, policy makers and consultants will be held, focussing on sustainable mobility.”
You mentioned it earlier: there are several ambassadors supporting 80 Day Race. Why are they committed?
“The 80 Day Race ambassadors share the vision of a sustainable future and mobility. The range of ambassadors is quite diverse. They share the same passion, but are operating in different areas of expertise. From successful entrepreneurs, businessmen, and competitive racers to experts in the fields of adventure, education and the development of sustainable technology. It’s a growing list of passionate personalities.”
What can we expect in the coming months?
“We will be soon announcing new ambassadors and we are in talks with six cities and five potential teams who have expressed their interests in participating in the race. And we are taking the challenge to the captains of industry. It promises to be an exciting time and we recommend to follow us closely for updates and insights.”