The Wye Island Challenge is an electric boat race that has run annually since 2001, which makes it a pretty unique venue to test electric boats. We took the Pure Outboard there to see how it stacked up in real-world conditions.
Entries this year included a wide variety of hulls and power trains. There was a hydrofoiling boat built from a canoe hull, with two pedal-controlled rear foils and a front foil with automatic leveling. Last year’s winner and record holder John Todd came with the boat that won last year, a very efficient single hull that planes easily. Other entries included a rare Boston Whaler catamaran, a converted rowing shell, the ‘Erged On II’ which had won years ago (now with a 14 year old pilot), and a bright yellow single hull boat. In all, there were more than a dozen entries. The most common power train was a Torqeedo that had won on various hulls from 2013-2015, and some competitors had ‘overvolted’ it by adding more batteries in series to get a little more power. John Todd’s record holding boat used a custom built system with a larger motor, with air cooling.
We mounted the Pure Outboard on a new Still Water Design hull, and its first outing was the test run on the Wye the day before the race. It’s a tri-hull craft with a center pontoon slightly higher than the two side pontoons. Instead of the normal bench seat, we had a simple chair set up for a single driver.
Off we went at the starting horn, with a turn around the first day marker, and the Pure Watercraft entry got ahead of the pack, setting the pace at 21 MPH. John Todd caught up, though, and held steady as the course crossed the channel, with the occasional huge wake, which John’s boat traversed without hesitation. Approaching the lighthouse that marks the entry to the Wye River and the beginning of Wye Island, the other boat fell back, and we discovered later that it was because the motor had overheated and failed (blew up might be a more apt description). The race got lonely, as the Pure system kept ahead and reached the required rest stop at the halfway point, and spent the 10 minute stop alone. After starting the second half, approaching Wye Island again, a couple of other competitors were spotted approaching their rest stop.
The return trip was more ‘adventurous’. The Pure boat ran aground on mud on the side of Wye Island, and worked itself free after a minute or two, and some serious doubts about whether a rock or oyster bed might have done some damage, but the motor had emerged in fine shape. Entering the channel for the final crossing back to the starting line, the most treacherous section of the race, there was a clear shot home, but the gargantuan yachts that ply those waters are not accustomed to slowing down for small boats. When the Pure boat was less than Â¼ mile from the finish line, three yachts silently conspired to send wakes from all directions at once, and the boat got inundated, salt water over everything. After blowing water out of the prototype connectors (the permanent ones are waterproof to an IP67 rating), the system started back up again and finished at the same speed at which it started: 21 MPH.
Unfortunately, no one was there when the boat finished. The ‘officials’ didn’t anticipate anyone finishing that early, so they were nowhere to be seen. We took our own finish time, which was 1 hour 10 minutes to the original start line. The previous record was 1 hour 35 minutes, and the previous multi-hull record was 2 hours 13 minutes. The margin over the old record was about 1 minute per mile, so instead of 4 minute miles in the previous fastest boat, the Pure boat did sub 3 minute miles.
See our course and a video of the adventure: