In May of 2022, the Hudson River Maritime Museum will be running a Grain Race in cooperation with the Schooner Apollonia, The Northeast Grainshed Alliance, and the Center for Post Carbon Logistics. Anyone interested in the race can find out more here.
Every game or race has rules: Not using the subway is a staple in Marathons, for example. The Northeastern Grain Race is no different, but, as with many games, if you pay close attention to the rules there's some clever ways to get ahead. The following ways to rules-lawyer yourself into a better score aren't exhaustive, but they might get you thinking.
1. You can use more than one vehicle.
From farm to producer might entail using more than one vehicle, for example taking grain from the farm to a dockside by truck, then via ship to another dock, to be brought to its final destination by electric bike, as has been done by Schooner Apollonia in the past. This all counts as one voyage, from door to door, and fuel has to be logged for the entry to count from door to door.
However, this also means that you could enter an entire cargo bicycle enthusiasts club as one voyage, and have them bring your cargo in a group ride. So long as it all happens at once and no one bike or biker makes more than one trip door to door, you'll qualify. This means you could also have the bike club do a couple loops as a segment of the cargo run, for example from a farm to a dock, and from the dock to the producer's door, provided it's different bike clubs on both ends.
2. You don't need to use the most direct route.
The shipment must originate and terminate in the Northeast, but that's the only regional restriction included in the rules. You don't need to take the shortest route, and you don't need to be fast, as you have the entire month of May to complete the delivery if you want. While making a circumnavigation might be a bit absurd given the time constraint of the month of May, and you have to balance fuel and power use, taking a longer route will get you a higher number of ton-miles, and thus positive points.
For example, for a very good score, you could ship grains from Bangor, Maine by sail to Troy, New York, all the way around the coast of New England and up the Hudson River. Since your fuel and energy inputs could be minimal or nothing in transit except through New York Harbor, docking, and undocking, you could rack up a very large score, even in a small vessel. If it takes you a week, you won't lose any points or place in the finish line, and with good planning you have up to a month.
This also means that a path requiring the least climbing will also get you a better score. If you can use an electric vehicle with regenerative braking, and go principally downhill, you will decrease your grid-power requirements, and thus increase your overall score. If you are using a gas or diesel vehicle for even part of your voyage, using these efficiency-routed pathways of least resistance are similarly beneficial to your score: Every 7 fluid ounces of fuel is worth one point!
3. Charging From Isolated Sources Is "Free."
While charging from the grid costs 5 points for each 10kWh of power used, charging from independent sources, such as isolated solar panels, wind generators, hand crank dynamos, or even micro hydropower generators costs nothing in points. While using a fossil-fueled generator or batteries charged from the grid to charge your vehicle would be disqualifying as simple attempts at avoidance and fraud, if the source of your power is fuel-free and not grid-connected, you can use it to an unlimited capacity without penalty.
4. People, Bikes, Pack Animals, and Sail Boats don't use fuel or grid power if well managed.
Maybe something to note down, alongside the phone number to your local marina, bike club, and horse stables.
5. Woah, Slow Down Maurice!
Speed requires extra energy, and this means more fuel burned. In fact, Extra-Slow Steaming is used on container ships when fuel is expensive because it saves so much fuel. A 10,000 TEU container ship burns about 325 tons of fuel per day at 24 knots, but only 100 tons per day at 16 knots. Simply by slowing down 33%, fuel consumption goes down by almost 70%.
While slowing down will certainly save fuel, you will have to learn the ideal speeds for your own vehicle, as not all are the same. Depending on design factors, the most efficient speed for a particular arrangement of cargo and vehicle may be very different than what you expect, and may be found in a very narrow window.
So, there's more than one way to get a better score in the grain race, without investing over half a million dollars in an electric Sail-Motorboat designed for Carbon-Neutral sail freight and a pair of electric trucks. In fact, many of these methods can be combined for even better scores in most cases.
You can find more information on the Grain Race here.
Steven Woods is the Solaris and Education coordinator at HRMM. He earned his Master's degree in Resilient and Sustainable Communities at Prescott College, and wrote his thesis on the revival of Sail Freight for supplying the New York Metro Area's food needs. Steven has worked in Museums for over 20 years.
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