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Solar-powered yacht's circumnavigation - in the home stretch

by Sail-World Cruising on 18 Apr 2012
Planet Solar in Port Sudan .. .
Turanor Planet Solar, the largest solar yacht in the world, has conquered the Red Sea and the Suez Canal and arrived in the Mediterranean. With the threat of pirates keeping all prudent sailors away from the Gulf of Aden approach to the Red Sea, theirs is not only a solar power triumph but also a pretty unusual voyage.

Raphaël Domjan, Founder & Expedition leader, writes from Greece, where they have stopped on their way to their home port of Monaco:



It is a great moment for the whole PlanetSolar team and myself. After eight years of effort, our goal is finally in sight. We have covered more than 31,300 nautical miles thanks to the sun’s energy and crossed all the Oceans of the planet.

After our stopover in Djibouti, we left our security team in the Red Sea, at 17 degrees north latitude on the high seas.

After sailing and living together for one month, saying goodbye was quite moving. We are looking forward to seeing them again in Monaco. Thanks to you all : Jordy, Yves, Franck, Jeff, Mike, Marc… you risked your lives to protect our eco-adventure …

The Red Sea is a true corridor with a powerful wind coming down from the North. Now and then we had to face winds blowing at more than 35 knots. We decided to stay on the west coast. Once more Mother Nature has protected us.

Conditions remained favourable as long as we were sailing along the coasts, where no stopover was possible. From the moment we reached Sudan, we had to make unexpected stopovers to charge our batteries. We used this occasion to discover places as unlikely as they were wonderful. Such a place is Port Sudan, an amazing city and country, inhabited by people of infinite kindness.

In Sudan, we were also lucky enough to visit the site of Commander Jacques Yves Cousteau’s underwater village, PréContinent II. It is here that six men lived underwater during one month in summer 1963. Albert Falco, one of our ambassadors, was one of those six men. It is an incredible moment to be here, 50 years after their expedition, with the world’s largest solar ship during the first sail up of the Red Sea with solar energy.

I organised the dive on the site and we quickly found the remains of the village. After an exploratory dive with Jens, I accompanied Gérard. Christian and Jens were the last to dive. Thank you Sir Cousteau, thanks to Falco and all the team of the Calypso, it was a first… Moments out of time …

Gérard d’Aboville, who had joined us in Djibouti and sailed up the Red Sea with us, left us in Hurghada, Egypt. Crossing the Suez Canal for the first time with a solar ship was a moving moment.

We thank the authorities of the Suez Canal for their help and we also thank Mr Ferdinand de Lesseps and the Egyptian people who allowed our expedition to get back to the Mediterranean Sea.

In the spirit of transparency and for the sake of our adventure, it is important to officially certify the success of the first world tour with solar energy. This is the reason why the UIM (Union Internationale Motonautique, member of the International Olympic Committee) is responsible for the certification of our world tour and our expedition is under its patronage.

We are keeping the expedition logbooks up to date. Every time we get to a new country, we let the custom and immigration authorities stamp our books as proof of our passage. We are sending our positions via two satellite beacons every 30 minutes. A notary has sealed our charging cables and emergency generators in Monaco. At our arrival, he will come and check that they are still in place. Our world tour will only be completed once we cross the finish line and our batteries are charged up to a minimum of 92%, in line with the battery charge level we had at the beginning of our journey.

From that moment we will have completed the first world tour respecting the strictest rules: passing the equator twice, crossing of our antipodal route, crossing all the longitude lines, and same point of departure and arrival. All of this achieved with the energy of our solar cells only.

Next we will sail for Italy and then toward Corsica. Patrick Marchesseau will meet us there and we also hope to have a few days of rest to recharge our batteries and take on the last miles of this world tour.

Come and be there with us for this historic moment, join us in Monaco on the fourth of May 2012 …

To follow the activities of Turanor Planet Solar, go to their http://www.planetsolar.org!website.

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