Last September, after many months of planning and construction, a very large solar solar-powered yacht called Planet Solar set out from Monaco, aiming to be the first to circumnavigate the globe in a 'solar' boat, i.e. one powered by a silent, pollution-free electrical engine, driven exclusively by solar energy.
Planet Solar - route so far
It planned that it would take around 160 days to circle the planet, but 146 days later, after crossing the Atlantic, visiting Miami and transiting the Panama Canal, they have just left Galapagos heading across the Pacific heading for Brisbane.
A little slower than planned, but maybe they are just having too good a time!
Here is their description of their visit to Galapagos:
Having travelled through the Panama Canal we took course for the Galápagos Islands. It was a voyage of just under 2,000 kilometres. The highlight was crossing the Equator, which we did on 24 January at 7.00 hours local time (13.00 hours UTC). It was a somehow strange journey as we crossed the intertropical convergence zone, which brought with it lots of humidity and difficult conditions, with not much sun and some unfavourable winds and currents. In spite of these difficulties we reached the island of San Cristobal only a few hours behind our original schedule.
Our stopover on the Galápagos exceeded all expectations. In partnership with the WWF, we had the opportunity of sharing the PlanetSolar adventure with the inhabitants and officials on the archipelago. It was a magic moment when a man with sunburnt skin which told of the long years he has spent on the islands stood gazing in childlike wonder at the sight of our solar boat and our electric bicycle. He embraced me and said that he was reassured to see that now people were prepared to change and to save our planet… Those brief moments were the best possible reward for all the years of effort and difficulties overcome by our entire team.
From Galapagos on board there will be the original team who left Monaco, Patrick Marchesseau, the captain, Raphaël Domjan, co-founder of the project, Jens Langwasser, the bo’sun and Christian Ochsenbein, the on-board engineer.
Patrick's long experience as a professional sailor includes being Captain of Le Ponant, the yacht that was hijacked and held for a week by Somali pirates in 2008, before being freed by French commandos.
While the PlanetSolar project is an extraordinary technological and human challenge, it is also an expression of the world-view of Raphaël Domjan and of the team he has built around him:
That our planet deserves a better, brighter and less polluted future. Future technologies must be keenly investigated and solutions must be found.
The project will help to motivate engineers and scientists to develop innovative technologies, inspire people around the world, and show that the impossible can become possible.
The vessel itself, PlanetSolar, is a multlihull vessel topped by a large array of photovoltaic solar panels, constructed by Knierim Yacht Club, in Kiel, Germany.
Additional removable parts allow it to expose a total of 537 m2 of photovoltaic surface (solar panels) to the sun.
They are currently heading for the Marquesas in French Polynesia, and after crossing the Pacific will stop in Brisbane.