Saturday, October 24, 2015

The last day

As he did every day, Stef, our tactical guy, took me apart on Tuesday evening for the weather briefing for the next day. I told him clouds were going to form between Port-Augusta and Adelaide. I didn't know exactly how far this cloud zone would reach, but around Port-Augusta the cloud zone should be less important than around Adelaide.
That way, the batteries of the Punch One could charge a lot (still 26 minutes of control stop to do), while the other teams would probably be under the couds.
I also told him that the clouds would gradually disappear in the morning.

When we woke up on Wednesday morning, this was the satellite image that I first saw.

We didn't know exactly where the other teams stayed during the night, but most probably, most of them were under the clouds. So maybe, there would still be a change of catching up on a team.

The Eagle was send out to find the next team and to follow it and give information to the Brains about their speed. After no more than 20 km, we found Team Tokai. They had their camp just at the edge of the cloud zone and they were able to receive solar enegry. Oh no!
We followed them and we noticed that they were getting closer to Team Michigan. Team Michigan, having spent the night and morning under the clouds. A little bit further, the Tokai solar car overtook the Michigan car, which was doing only 80 km/h. Could Punch One maybe still catch up with the Americans?

Meanwhile the sun broke trough the clouds(as predicted) and everybody was receiving solar energy.

Michigan was still driving rather slowly, but the distance to the finish had become to small to be able to catch up with them. And that is how the Punch One remained on the 5th position.

Congratulations team, for this great effort and thanks for letting me be part of this adventure!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Perfect weather for a strategic plan, but...

Today should have been MY day as Punch Powertrain Solar Team's weather man. It would have been! But other than dynamic or convective forces decided otherwise.

Already at the end of last week, I noticed that a weak perturbation, associated with a low over the Great Australian Bight, would approach from the south up to the Alice Springs region on this Tuesday. The exact timing and location were still uncertain, but it was already clear that this would be the kind of weather one could build a cunning plan upon.
As this day was getting closer, more and more team mates came to me with questions about the weather. How cloudy was it going to be? And what about that wind?

Not only would this perturbation produce cloudiness, but the winds before and after this cloud band would be totally different.

It was exactly what we observed. 

A north-westerly wind was blowing north of the cloud band, while south of it, the wind suddenly shifted to the south-west. Driving southwards on the Stuart Highway (yellow line on this satellite image) a north-westerly wind is a tailwind from the right. A south-westerly wind means a headwind from the right. So indeed, a perfect situation for a strategic plan.
But, as I mentioned, other forces decided otherwise. Due to a penalty, our team had to wait for an hour at the second control stop. And our tactical plans just went up in smoke...

Monday, October 19, 2015

Hot in the Australian savannah

On day 2 of the World Solar Challenge, the sky was clear for most of the day. In the afternoon, some higher clouds were appearing over the southern horizon, but nothing to worry about.
The weather station on our vehicle measured 36 °C. And the moderate wind was mainly easterly to north-easterly.
Being well informed about this weather, the Punch Powertrain Solar Team could do very well. 

They overtook the Japanese Tokai Team and became fourth in the race. Team Michigan, Team Twente en Team Nuon not being to far ahead. But bad luck  knocked them down to place 5 again...

Tonight, I will talk for a  moment to the weather gods. Maybe they can arrange something for us tomorrow ;-)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Fly like an eagle

During the World Solar Challenge, Punch One, the Belgian solar car, will be assisted by a convoy of no less than 6 cars plus one truck. I will take place in the first car, which is called the Eagle.

The Eagle will always stay approximately 100 km ahead of the solar car and continuously be in contact with the Brains. The Brains is the name of the car following Punch One. Aboard of this car are the people in charge of the strategy of the team.

The Eagle, with weather station at the front

The Eagle will always stay so far ahead to explore the area where the solar car will be going to. Visual observations and measurements done by instruments on board of the Eagle will give us the opportunity to fine-tune the strategy during the race. Would the forecast for the day seem to be not okay - which is very unlickely ;-) - these observations will allow us to update it.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Arrived at Darwin

This morning, around 05 o'clock local time, I finally arrived in Darwin.
The team is busy with testing the car, finetuning, testing again and later on some more testing.

Nice weather here in the north of Australia with temperatures about 33 degrees at the moment. We already had a quick outlook for what's to be expected next week, but off course, I'm not going to give this information away.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Crossing the equator

Tomorrow in the early afternoon, I will say goodbye to my wife and my two little boys and I will begin my journey to Australia. Wednesday, close to midnight (local time) my plain will cross the Equator and in the early morning, I will arrive in Darwin.

When sailors cross the Equator, they often celebrate this occasion with some kind of an initation rite for Neptune, the ancient Roman god of the sea. Sailors who have already crossed the Equator are nicknamed Shellbacks, often referred to as Sons of Neptune; those who have not are nicknamed Pollywogs.
As far as I know, no such thing exists for travellers crossing the equator by airplane. So, I will have to invent a ceremony by myself in honour of the weather gods. After all, They are the one's who have mapped out this adventure for me ;-)

For a European weather forecaster as myself, it's so obvious that air is always flowing counter-clockwise around a low and clockwise around a high-pressure area. After crossing the Equator however, this general rule will no longer be true, because at the Southern Hemisphere, everything is turning the other way around.

This can be explained with the Coriolis effect. That's the apparent deflection of moving objects when the motion is described relative to a rotating reference frame. In a reference frame with clockwise rotation, the deflection is to the left of the motion of the object; in one with counter-clockwise rotation, the deflection is to the right. Although recognized previously by others, the mathematical expression for the Coriolis force appeared in an 1835 paper by French scientist Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis.

Coriolis did experiments on friction and hydraulics and he worked on the effects of kinetic energy on the principle of kinetic energy in the relative motion in machines. Being a fanatic pool player, he began to wonder how the balls would move on a rotating table. And that off course, was just the start of the mathematical expression of the Coriolis effect.

I found a nice Youtube-video, that well explains the Coriolis effect. Enjoy it!

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Belgium x 12

The route of the upcoming World Solar Challenge is about 3000 km, from Darwin to Adelaide, through places called Katherine, Alice Springs, Coober Pedy,...

Thanks to, we can easily compare the size of countries. Just to have a general idea how long the distance from Darwin to Adelaide really is, I tried to find out how many times Belgium would fit in Australia along this route.
Here's the result:

Belgium, it may me a small country, but it has great potential! ;-)