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Southern Spars - North Technology

World's largest solar boat-a rocky ride but almost across the Pacific

by Sail-World Cruising on 6 May 2011
PlanetSolar - sunset in Nuku Alofa, Tonga .. .
Tûranor PlanetSolar, the largest solar powered boat in the world is on its way to set a round-the-world record that will promote the use of sustainable energy.

This 31 metre long boat, capable of reaching 14 knots, started on a journey around the world last September, departing from Monaco, and is now in the South Pacific. Here the skipper, Patrick Marchesseau, tells the story of their recent journey, including their near disastrous incident just after they left Bora Bora heading west:

After crossing the Marquesas from north to south, it was in Fatu Hiva, the largest island in the south, that we learned of the terrible events that occurred in Japan. We were alerted in the night by our Inmarsat C and our shore crew of the arrival of the tsunami. The next day we stayed away from the shore for safety reasons. We observed for the next 24 hours moderate waves of more than two meters in our anchorage, making berthing difficult but without causing damage.

Hopefully after this natural disaster and its human and technological wakes, individual and collective consciences will allow our civilization to take the path of wisdom.

We then headed to Papeete, passing through the Tuamotu Archipelago, and making a stop in Rangiroa. Passing into the lagoon was an impressive moment, with a strong current. Navigation between the Marquesas and Papeete was also the fastest since leaving Monaco, with an average of 5.8 knots allowing us to travel more than 140 nautical miles in 24 hours.

Our stopover in Papeete has been an incredible success for the adventure PlanetSolar. A lot of people waiting for us with impatience, and for four days of our stay we appeared regularly in the media and several hundred people came to visit us. We were also present during the first Boat Show in French Polynesia, and were frequently guests of honor. After journeying so far it was a magical moment for our team.

We then sailed to Bora Bora. On our way we organized a brief stopover in Raiatea where the famous skipper Franco-Swiss Laurent Bourgnon came on board to sail with us. It's amazing to see him still sailing competitively and striving for perfection. During the two days we spent together I often had to say: 'Raphael, you thought of this ... Raphael, you could improve it, right? '

Arriving Bora Bora we were officially received by the deputy mayor of the island. On the quay, in the crowd, there was Philippe Poupon, one of the best sailors in the world. He's here with his wife, actress Geraldine Danon and their children.

They are sailing a world tour from north to south with their vessel 'Southern Flower,' through the Northwest Passage and the Antarctic. Nothing less ... Their goal, taking the pulse of the planet and raise public awareness on the need to preserve our environment. We spent two wonderful days with them. Thank you, Geraldine, Philip and Lawrence.

We left Bora Bora Tuesday morning, March 29. At 16:15, when we were already more than 50 miles from Bora Bora, a loud noise and vibrations were felt on board. We stopped our engines and found that the management system of the pitch of the propeller on the port was broken!

The propeller blades were feathered skirt and tap on the float. We also had a slight leak. We needed more than 5 hours to stabilize the situation and we cut the skirt float with Jens. On the high seas and with nightfall approaching, the operation was dangerous. Fortunately, we were able to construct a jury rig with the help of our teams on the ground. After 12 hours drifting to the west we then headed east to get to Bora Bora. Wednesday, March 30, early evening, we were back and safe in the lagoon of Bora.

It took two weeks for Markus, our technician to analyze the problem, build the parts and fly across the world to make a temporary repair which would allow us to reach Australia safely. Once there we will enjoy a technical stopover where we will dry dock PlanetSolar to make a permanent repair.

We are still headed for Brisbane in Australia where we will perform full maintenance on the boat. How quickly time passes! It's already more than a year since PlanetSolar dipped her floats in salt water for the first time. Today the ship has already sailed more than 30,000 km. Far exceeding all distances previously established by solar vehicles.



About the Expedition:
With this expedition, the iniatiors of the project would like to focus the public awareness on the importance of renewable energies for environmental protection. The crew of six will circumnavigate the globe solely with the aid of solar power. Apart from the skipper, Frenchman Patrick Marchesseau. other participants are Christian Ochsenbein (Bern, Switzerland) and Jens Langwasser (Kiel, Germany); as well as project initiator Raphael Domjan (Yverdon-les Bain, Switzerland). On the first leg across the Atlantic Ocean technician Daniel Stahl (Kiel, Germany) and first mate Mikaela von Koskull (Finland) were part of the crew.
The current routing around the globe (subject to favourable weather and nautical conditions) foresees stopovers in several port cities to inform the public about the importance of sustainable and renewable energies.
The boat is registered in Switzerland and was financed by a German entrepreneur. Construction cost was € 12.5 million. The name Tûranor, derived from J.R.R. Tolkien's novel The Lord of the Rings, translates to 'The Power of the Sun'.

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