Planes, trains and automobiles. And boats and buses and helicopters. Monday saw the arrival of the Geec at Shell Eco-Marathon (SEM) Europe 2016. The move of this year’s event from Rotterdam to London was heralded by the members of the Galway energy-efficient car (Geec) team as a levelling of the playing field in our favour relative to our continental European competitors. We were partly right!
Part 1: By sea
The Geec 2.0 was lovingly packed in Galway on Saturday and began its voyage to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park via the Dublin-Holyhead ferry on Sunday morning in the care of Team Flannery, a crack team consisting of Postgraduate Advisor Barry and his dad Kieran. After the drama of a medical helicopter evacuation from the deck of the ferry (neither Barry nor Kieran involved), and the monotony of a drive across post-Brexit Wales and England, our beloved car arrived to its new (temporary) home in the paddocks right beside the Olympic stadium, now the home ground of West Ham United FC. The paddocks, while a little smaller than those in Rotterdam in 2015, essentially resemble a battery farm for cars and their creators! Student teams from almost every European country, and some from further afield (South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco, Canada, the USA, and even Malaysia), are supplied with just enough food, water and light to get their cars up and running.
After depositing the car, tools, and testing equipment in the paddocks, our intrepid advance team headed to the campsite to set up camp on the banks of the Lea River. Not quite as romantic as it sounds, but close! The campsite is an old waterworks that has been returned to nature; an oasis of calm in the sprawl of a London in full-blown development mode since the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Calm that is, until the arrival of over 160 SEM teams and their camps for the week. It never ceases to amaze the Geec team how much “stuff” our continental counterparts bring with them to SEM Europe! Swiss, French and Spanish teams around us have erected incredibly impressive “mothership” tents, with individual sleeping tents sprouting off in all directions. But the prize for best campers must go to the Germans. Our neighbours built what can only be described as a full-size Bavarian beerhall, complete with wooden benches for rowdy sing-songs and a 6-metre-tall flagpole that is a serious work of engineering in its own right! We, on the other hand, have bunting. Green, white and orange bunting to be precise. And we are quite proud of it, judging by Laura’s the size of smile in the photo! With the camp established, all that was needed was a team.
A comparison of national self-image: (i) an Irish tent and a German TENT (left), (ii) Irish bunting and German mega-flag (top left). But Laura doesn’t care. Laura loves patriotic bunting. Be like Laura.
Part 2: By air
The Republic of Ireland soccer team had their homecoming from their heroic European Championship campaign at Dublin Airport on Monday afternoon. The national media however didn’t seem to get the memo that an equally important event took place at the same place a mere 2 hours before the Boys in Green entered the arrivals hall; the bulk of the Geec contingent was in the airport Burger King taking on some essential last-minute carbs and protein before their week at SEM Europe. OMG! Call the paparazzi! One flight, one bus, and one lost tent later, team members Sorcha, Julie, Parnell, Sean, Radko, Mark, Shane, Hugh and academic mentor Rory arrived at the chaos that is Stratford station at evening rush hour. Those of us who took the opportunity to do the grocery shopping for the next 24 hours in the nearby Lidl will require counselling for most of the rest of our lives. It was quickly brought home to us that the population of Metropolitan London is indeed nearly three times that of Ireland! But one hour later, the dinner was in the pot and a long day of travel for everyone was about to have a warm and tasty ending. After copious quantities of spaghetti Bolognese came a lively discussion on strategy for the most daunting hurdle of Day 2, Technical Inspection. But first, sleep!
Happy bellies make happy Geecs! End of Day 1 rollcall from left to right: Julie, Laura, Mark, Rory, Barry, Niamh, Radko, Hugh (standing), Keith (front), Shane, Sorcha, Parnell, Sean. Not pictured: Kieran. Remarkably we lost no one in transit!