Racing Tigers compete on world stage

Monaco Energy Boat Challenge

Sarkis Milan, center, a fifth-year mechanical engineering major, designed and piloted RIT Dubai’s Racing Tigers boat.

Members of RIT Dubai’s Racing Tigers take a life-long passion in sailing, pair it with academic knowledge, and then compete on the world stage, all while working to create a sustainable future with clean-energy technologies.

That includes Sarkis Milan, a fifth-year mechanical engineering major from Dubai, who has always had a passion for building boats.

“I used to collect water jugs and tie them to thrown-out cabinets to make a small boat,” said Milan.

Before he decided on a college, Milan visited RIT Dubai and won an industrial engineering competition that earned him a scholarship. After that, RIT seemed like the right fit for him.

RIT Dubai, which was established in 2008, is one of five global campuses. Others are RIT Croatia (Dubrovnik and Zagreb), RIT Kosovo, and RIT China. The sail racing team is one of more than 20 active clubs on the RIT Dubai campus.

Milan was responsible for designing last year’s boat along with manufacturing the parts. The craft was tested at the annual Monaco Energy Boat Challenge, where teams from around the world compete with alternative boat propulsion systems in tests of endurance, speed, and maneuverability.

Milan was tasked with driving the boat during the four-hour endurance competition on the Mediterranean Sea.

“I felt truly connected with this machine I built,” said Milan. “I designed every single component and put it together with my own hands. Driving wasn’t something I had to even think about; it felt like an extension of my body.”

The Sailing Tigers placed fifth out of 16 teams at the 2023 competition, following a second-place finish in 2022.

In 2023, the team struggled with battery issues during the first race and had just seven team members compared to other teams with 40 or more participants.

As the only team from the Middle East and North Africa region, getting to Monaco, acquiring sponsorship money and visas, and shipping the vessel also proved challenging.

“Overall, I always felt confident in the boat and knew that it was built better than most of the other teams,” said Milan. “During the races it always felt like I was driving a Porsche, and the others were driving a Camry.”

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